We were racing down Boulevard Saint-Germain in Paris trying to find the tiny slip street with the one theatre that was playing the movie in Version Originale i.e. english, and I remember the feeling of triumph when we slipped into our seats just as it started, thinking I was meant to watch The Eye Has to Travel in Paris.
“How does one become Diana Vreeland?” George Plimpton asks Vreeland in an interview for the memoir he helped her write. “The first thing to do, my love,” she responds, “is to arrange to be born in Paris.”
As with most films on fashion, this one too is packed with anecdotes, interviews, film clips, and pithy one-liners. There is however, more than a smidge of real life. Whether it’s the recollection of being told by her mother that she was “extremely ugly”, Vreeland said later “Parents, you know, can be terrible”; or coping with the death of the love of her life, her husband Thomas Reed Vreeland; or her sons talking about envying their classmates’ more traditional mothers. But what speaks volumes is Vreelend’s constant deflection whenever things get too personal.
“There’s only one very good life and that’s the life you know you want and you make it yourself”
Vreeland wrote in her diary that she had always “been looking out for girls to idolize because they are things to look up to because they are perfect. Never have I discovered that girl or that woman. I shall be that girl.” If she didn’t succeed, it would be a “betrayal of my own self.” Her sense of self shines through in this film – her thoughts, eccentric though they may seems, are clear and there is no sitting on the fence when it comes to her views on fashion.
“Why don’t you wear violet velvet mittens with everything.”
Larger-than-life photoshoots were her way of giving people a point of view, showing them the dreamlike quality of fashion through juxtaposition. “Who but Vreeland could have imagined Lauren Hutton, clad in a lime-green bikini top and harem pants, as the centerpiece of a male initiation rite in Bali?” Her lavish projects came at a cost and she was demoted at Vogue as the magazine shifted focus from high fashion to affordable chic.
“I think part of my success as an editor came from never worrying about a fact, a cause, an atmosphere. It was me—projecting to the public. That was my job. I think I always had a perfectly clear view of what was possible for the public. Give ‘em what they never knew they wanted.”
As a designer, what I took away from the movie was her way of seeing fashion as part of the bigger picture. Being able to see that so much art, literature, architecture, pop culture was derived from fashion and the other way around, and using that in a way to showcase design intelligently. Quotable before Twitter, many of Vreeland’s thoughts have been derided for being frivolous. I thought most of them to be extremely sensible, and so to end:
“Why don’t you paint a map of the world on all four walls of your boys’ nursery so they won’t grow up with a provincial point of view?”