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The Eye Has to Travel
To be fabulous, first, you should “arrange to be born in Paris,” says Diana Vreeland, the self-made fashion doyenne and former editor-in-chief of American Vogue in Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel. Directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, the wife of Vreeland’s grandson, Alexander, the documentary is studded with Vreeland’s quotable proverbs - “the bikini is the biggest thing since the atom bomb”, “fashion is not the same thing as style” - and her signature wit.
Told largely in Vreeland’s voice as she recounts her story to biographer George Plimpton, The Eye Has to Travel celebrates her outlandish, colourful life, from her upbringing with an austere, American mother who told her she was “extremely ugly” to her friendship with Coco Chanel and her gig as fashion editor of Harper’s Bazaar, where she penned her renowned ‘Why Don’t You?’ column.
“Why don’t you rinse your blonde child’s hair in dead champagne to keep it gold?” she writes, or, “have a white monkey-fur bedcover mounted on yellow velvet?”
Vreeland’s reign at Vogue, from 1963 to 1971, cemented the magazine’s status as the fashion Bible, with Vreeland fusing fashion and storytelling with features on music, art, film and literature. A year after she was fired, she breathed new life into the Met’s Costume Institute, forever changing the way fashion was exhibited. After all, “I was only 70,” she drawls. “What was I supposed to do? Retire?”
“She was and remains the only genius fashion editor,” says Richard Avedon, who affectionately nicknamed Vreeland his ‘crazy aunt’ and appears along with one-time Vreeland assistant Ali MacGraw, Penelope Tree, David Bailey, Anjelica Huston, Tonne Goodman and a theatrical Manolo Blahnik (“she had vision!” he squeals).
“I believe you see, in the dream,” Vreeland says of her work.
“I think we only live through our dreams and our imagination. That’s the only reality we really ever know.”
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel is in cinemas November 22.