Monday, August 29, 2011

D is for Diana.......

It's been many years since she passed on, but when one says the name Diana, the one that immediately comes to mind is Diana Princess of Wales, the tall blonde goddess with the deep blue eyes. Ah but this post is not about her, the people's princess who held dying children in her arms and oozed compassion.

The Diana I'm writing about might be literally unknown in this part of the world, even those who work in the local fashion publishing industry go "Who........?" when I mention her name. Kinda ironic considering that many aspects of today's fashion magazines has her stamp on it.

Let me give you an example, those fashion spreads shot in exotic locations - model lounges on sun-drenched beach in Bali, clad in bright peacock coloured sundress......... it all started with her. Before she came along, such photo shoots were literally unheard of.

OK enough of the suspense already. Her name is Diana Vreeland. Ring a bell? You know what she's all about? If you do, get in touch with me, we'll go for a cuppa, I need more friends like you who are familiar with long gone fashion mavens from the other side of the Atlantic.

So now you're probably thinking that this Diana like her more universally known counterpart was some kind of a clothes horse. Wrong!!

Actually in looks and style, the two could not have been more opposite. While Diana of Wales was blonde through and through, Vreeland's hair was jet black. While Diana embraced colour, Vreeland almost always wore black, though she was said to be obsessed with the colour red.

Vreeland told designer Billy Baldwin that her apartment should look like a garden in hell.

While Diana was photographed at gala events decked in the Queen's jewels. Vreeland preferred signature pieces of costume jewelry which she fondly referred to as her "junk jewels".

Vreeland's accesories was not for the tame hearted.

Diana Vreeland  was like a wizard of style. She knew what women wanted, even before they did. Such deep perception and uncanny insight was a unique attribute of hers. In fact until her death in 1989, she was considered an American style icon and one of the most influential women in fashion history. I can almost hear you think - "Wasn't Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis an American style icon....?" Well the one giving Jackie all those style tips was Vreeland!

Though many people who claim to breathe fashion (in this part of the world) have no idea who Vreeland is, and probably don't give a fig. Much that is in fashion today, including its personalities, have Vreeland to thank for it.

She recognised the fashion potential of bold prints.

It was her who brought animal prints into style. When Yves St Laurent showcased them in a collection, Vreeland saw potential and pushed it to the public. So that's how animal prints, namely leopard prints came to be so popular. Making an appearance decade after decade, season after season, in the collection of many designers and in the high street.

Every fashionista craves a pair of Manolos.


When aspiring fashion designer Manolo Blahnik showed her his fashion sketches, she advised him to focus on shoes. Need I say more? Oh but I must! It was Vreeland who discovered Lauren Bacall and helped launch Twiggy in America.

Vreeland wielded her enormous influence on the world of fashion - as fashion editor at Harpers Bazaar for more than two decades, and subsequently as Editor in Chief of Vogue from 1963 to 1971.

Unlike Anna Wintour and others who took the journalistic root to a career in fashion publishing. Vreeland's entry into the industry was quite accidental actually. In fact she never intended to work for a living!

Vreeland was not born wealthy, but she hailed from a socially well connected background. She was friends with Coco Channel and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor. Though she wore designer clothes, Vreeland paid almost nothing for it. Couturiers were happy to have her wear their clothes for her chic manner and visibility in high society.

As it turned out, it was her visibility and sense of style that landed Vreeland her first job in fashion publishing. She was spotted dancing at the St. Regis hotel in a white Chanel lace dress with a bolero and roses in her hair by Harpers Bazaar editor Carmel Snow. The rest they say is fashion history!

Photographer Richard Avedon credits Vreeland with reinventing the job of fashion editor. Before her, the fashion editor put together spreads that would appeal to society ladies. But Vreeland's approach was different.

Instead of simply reporting on styles and trends of the day, Vreeland played tastemaker. She told women what they should want. She had an uncanny intuition on what would appeal to the public, and used this talent to great effect in popularising certain trends, ideas and attitudes.



Vreeland however was not just celebrated for her sense of style. She was a larger than life personality and a celebrated wit who along the way created many words that have made their way into popular talk. For instance, the word "pizazz" originated from her.

She was also quite the storyteller, weaving spectacular tales out of half truths. Asked by a journalist whether this was fact or fiction. She said it was faction!

Vreeland's bon mots could also rival that of Oscar Wilde's. Now I'm beginning to wonder what it would have been like if the two had met! But that's another story for another time. For now I shall end this post with several of Vreeland's famed quotes.



 I'm terrible on facts. But I always have an idea. If you have an idea, you're well ahead!

What do I think about the way most people dress? Most people are not something one thinks about.


I loathe narcissism, but I approve of vanity.

Blue jeans are the most beautiful things since the gondola.

Pink is the navy blue of India.


People who eat white bread have no dreams.


In Balenciaga you were the only woman in the room - no other woman existed.


No one cuts backs like he did. No one knows what a back is anymore.


As you know, the French like the French very much.


The best thing about London is Paris.


I think your imagination is your reality.


Never fear being vulgar, just boring.


A little bad taste is like a nice splash of paprika.

Is there anything beyond fashion?

2 comments:

Small Kucing said...

True what you have said. The first thing I thought of was Princess Diana

Jothi said...

Hahaha.....thanks for dropping by!