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Posts Tagged ‘Diana Vreeland’

Seven Questions for Diana Vreeland Biographer Amanda Mackenzie Stuart

empress of fashion

Cecil Beaton described her as “an authoritative crane” or “some extraordinary parrot,” while Nicky Haslam likened her presence to “a sock in the jaw.” Both were referring to the fashionable force of nature that was Diana Vreeland (1903-89), the subject of Amanda Mackenzie Stuart‘s Empress of Fashion, out Tuesday in paperback from Harper Perennial. The dazzling biography delves into the origins of Vreeland’s genius as it follows her from an ugly duckling childhood in Paris and a self-imposed extreme makeover at the age of 14, through her tenure at Harper’s Bazaar, at Vogue, and at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

“There were imagination and fantasy in fashion before Diana,” says Stuart (pictured below). “What she did, indefatigably, and from a position of great influence at Vogue, was to assert the authority of the imagination—and the idea of possibility that galloped along beside it.” We threw on our most exotic caftan, streaked on the rouge, and managed to narrow our questions for Vreeland’s Oxford, England-based biographer down to an elegant seven.

AM StuartWhen/how did you first encounter Diana Vreeland?
I’m British and live in the UK so I was only vaguely aware of Diana Vreeland before I started writing a different book, about Consuelo Vanderbilt and her mother Alva (Consuelo and Alva Vanderbilt: The Story of a Mother and a Daughter in the Gilded Age, HarperCollins, 2005). Before my research for that book, and like a number of people now I think, I knew something about DV without being quite sure why. I wasn’t quite sure what she did, but I did have a blurry image of a snood, a dash of brilliant red lipstick, and an achingly hip granny who ran ’round town with Andy Warhol. Quite terrifying, in other words.

At the very end of my research for the book about Consuelo, I discovered that Diana Vreeland had long been fascinated by her story and her style and had included her in the Costume Institute exhibition in 1976 called “American Women of Style.” So that was the point at which I first properly encountered DV.

Was there a particular aspect of her background or a finding in your initial research that convinced you to proceed with a biography?
Well, when I was writing the Consuelo book I should have been a very self-disciplined biographer and stopped myself from going off-piste for days on end. I should have allocated no more than half a day’s research, or maybe one day maximum, to the curator of an exhibition in which Consuelo appeared twelve years after her death. But it didn’t work out like that. I became completely distracted by DV, who was very funny, and, at first glance, not unlike Consuelo’s mother. (On second glance she wasn’t like her at all, but that’s another story.)
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Quote of Note | Diana Vreeland

“I have astigmatism, like El Greco. I’m not comparing myself with El Greco for a minute, except that we both have the same physical disability. Partly because of his disability he saw things that most people don’t see. I see all sorts of things that you don’t see. I see girls and I see the way their feet fall off the sidewalk when they’re getting ready to cross the street but they’re waiting for the light, with their marvelous hair blowing in the wind and their fatigued eyes….”

-Diana Vreeland, quoted in Amanda Mackenzie Stuart‘s Empress of Fashion: A Life of Diana Vreeland (Harper)

Friday Photo: Studio 54 Memories for Sale

In 1977, all of the special people spent Halloween night at Studio 54 to celebrate Liza Minnelli‘s buzzy Broadway turn in The Act. Oscar Abolafia snapped this photo of a group of post-show revelers that included Andy Warhol (clutching a Playbill), Diana Vreeland, and Steve Rubell. The following year, Vreeland, then in the Costume Institute phase of her legendary career, joined Rubell to celebrate his 35th birthday and followed up with a thank you note that rather mysteriously enthused about his “adorable children.” The note and photo are among the Studio 54 memorabilia that will be auctioned tomorrow by Palm Beach Modern Auctions. In addition to photos from Rubell’s personal collection (including some Warhol Polaroids and the artist’s bronze dollar sign sculpture, estimated to fetch $30,000 to $50,000), there are V.I.P. drink tickets, party invitations, and a guestbook from the famed nightclub. The auction house has also studded the sale with some glam design pieces by the likes of Paul Evans, Vladimir Kagan, and Milo Baughman, whose sleek 1970s sectional comes with a revolving cocktail table: drink up and boogie down.

Taking Visionaire Private

Stopping by UnBeige again today is contributor Stephanie Murg.

visionaire 52.jpg

Visionaire, the triannual art-meets-fashion publication that has tackled themes ranging from power and desire to Cinderella and the color blue, is getting back to its limited-edition roots in November, when they’ll publish their 52nd issue: “Private,” a book of photographs by famed fashion snappers Mert Alas and Marcus Piggott tucked inside a gold monogrammed case by Louis Vuitton. Pre-order yours today ($375 plus shipping).

Guest Editor (and Vuitton creative director) Marc Jacobs worked with Mert n’ Marcus on the series of “personal” (read: mostly nude) portraits of some of his fashionable friends, including Drew Barrymore, Selma Blair, and Lil’ Kim. “Private” is Visionaire‘s third collaboration with Vuitton. To celebrate, Visionaire will sell a few rare copies of the last collaboration, “Fashion Special” (issue 18), a highly coveted–and similarly LV-encased–issue that featured such memorable spreads as Craig McDean and M/M Paris‘s life-size foldout of a model clad in Comme des Garçons.

Founded in 1991 by Stephen Gan, James Kaliardos, and Cecilia Dean, Visionaire straddles the categories of fashion magazine, artist’s book, and design object. They also seem to function as a repository of art directorial and editorial dreams. One issue consisted entirely of memos sent by Diana Vreeland. Others included latex, embroidery, lenticular screens, flipbooks, flavor-infused plastic strips, and a swatch of the bedsheets of supermodel Gisele Bundchen.

Meanwhile, now on view at the Visionaire gallery in New York is issue 51, “Harmony,” a series of jigsaw puzzles designed by artists including Richard Misrach and Maurizio Cattelan. Vik Muniz goes for the mise en abyme, making a puzzle out of an image of puzzle pieces.

Stephanie Murg is a New York-based writer and art consultant.