Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel
Last week, I heard about, Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel, a new documentary about the legendary fashion editor of Harpers Bazaar and Vogue, and vowed see it immediately. Lucky I found out about it when I did because it’s only showing for a number of blink-and-you’ll-miss-it dates in the UK. I treated myself to a viewing at the Curzon Mayfair on Saturday afternoon and have felt inspired and creative ever since. I cannot recommend this film to you enough.
I had read bits about Vreeland over the years, absorbing articles about her, but this is by far the most comprehensive look at her life. I left the theatre feeling as though I wish I’d known her. Her energy seemed infectious. She was this complete force – creating outlandish, beautiful, timeless images that transcended fashion.
Her fearlessness – that’s what comes across in abundance here. Her absolute, utter fearlessness to express herself and her ideas. She didn’t care if people thought she was ridiculous or an idea wasn’t doable, she would put it out there anyway and get everyone on her side to make it happen. This resonated with me as I think I often shy away from my own ideas – I guess we all do in some way – seemingly certain people won’t understand or appreciate them. After one viewing of this documentary, I left and made furious notes in my notebook about all the things I want to do, no matter how crazy they seem.
Another reason I connected with Vreeland? She was not what one would consider a traditional beauty, but she made herself a work of art. She redefined beauty. She said ‘push their faults, make it the most beautiful thing about them’. So if someone had a gap in their teeth, she’d tell them to smile wider, if they had a long neck, she’d request they be shot from an angle that made it look even longer, and she very famously celebrated Barbara Streisand’s nose by shooting her in profile. These may seem like small things, but without a Vreeland pushing for different forms of beauty to be celebrated and put on the front cover, much of modern modelling wouldn’t exist.
There’s only one good life and that’s the life you know you want and you make it yourself – Diana Vreeland
I find it telling that everyone speaking about her in the documentary referred to her as ‘Mrs Vreeland’ – that’s the level of respect she commands, even in death.
Much of the footage of Vreeland speaking is from the 1980s, where I think she would’ve been well into her 80s and yet, she was still a driving force in the cultural and creative narrative of the time. She led a fascinating life, born in 1904 in Paris, she was coming of age in the roaring 20s in New York, hanging out with Josephine Baker in Harlem and doing all sorts of fabulous things. Perhaps it’s simply the way she lived her life that made her so good at predicting trends but when it came to the 1960s, a time when she would’ve been at an age that would be considered ‘past it’, she was still shaping the cultural climate, being the first to use pictures of Mick Jagger and discovering Twiggy.
So basically, I can’t recommend this documentary highly enough. Even if you’re not into fashion, I think it’s pretty essential viewing for all creative people. The sheer brilliance of the way she worked and the body of work produced as a result is worth a watch. And speaking of the body of work, the beautiful images she created are obviously peppered throughout the doc and hearing the stories behind them makes them even more special.
Diana Vreeland – a true icon.