Bold and daring with an eye for the avant-garde, fashion icon Diana Vreeland was nothing short of visionary. After 25 years of writing for “Harper’s Bazaar”, Vreeland became editor-in-chief of “Vogue” before serving as consultant to the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Although she passed away in 1989 at age 86, Diana’s granddaughter-in-law, Lisa Immordino Vreeland, hopes to carry on her legacy with a new documentary, “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel”.
A first-time director, Immordino Vreeland has been heavily involved in fashion all her life: having previously served as public relations director for Polo Ralph Lauren in Italy and launching several fashion lines for men and women worldwide. She recently took some time to chat with The East Valley Tribune about the film, her grandmother-in-law’s legacy and what Diana might think of current fashion trends if she were around today.
As a first-time filmmaker, what were some of the challenges you faced making this documentary? Did you ever feel your family connection could make the film biased in any way?
Well, as a first-time filmmaker, I was lucky I had a very talented team who understood my really strong ambition of what I wanted to do. What was great was that I had two editors and co-directors, Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt and Frédéric Tcheng, who were experienced in filmmaking and were able to show me how it’s made. I learned a lot about filmmaking from them.
In terms of the family, I just married into the family so I didn’t feel at all biased. It’s not that the family was providing so much information to me because a lot of the material was just public record from the New York Public Library or articles, so it’s not necessarily that – I didn’t feel at all compromised and I don’t think the team ever did. I think we were all just thrilled with the results.
How old were you when Diana passed away? Any fond memories or stories of her you’d like to share?
I actually never met her; I never knew her at all. I was 26 when she died, but I never met her; I didn’t know her. My husband knew her very well because he was her grandson and he had a great relationship (with her), despite the very difficult relationship her two sons had. My husband and his brother had a really great relationship with their grandmother; I guess it kind of skipped a generation. She was always present, very supportive and it was just a really different relationship so he was very lucky.
I had always worked in fashion, so I kind of had this perception of who she was that was really more in the sense of the interest of fashion and this kind of exaggerated personality. I really wanted to get to know who she was and with this documentary, I wanted to discover the true Diana Vreeland through my research. I was so happy to discover somebody totally different.
Toward the end of the film, we learn that Diana fabricated some of her personal history over the years. Were there any pieces of her “faction” that you incorporated into the documentary?
There were a lot of different things we did incorporate, but her whole life, in a way, was slightly exaggerated and she loved that. She would take things in and put on this special veneer of sounding better, looking better which was fascinating. She wasn’t a liar; she wasn’t lying about any of this. It was just a way to make (life) look better and to think of it in a different way and make it seem more romantic. Her outlook on life was just to make things seem a little glossier, and I actually think that was important, it was an important part of her personality.
Are there any trends in modern-day fashion that you believe Diana would love? Any trends that you think she would hate?
I think that what’s really great about her is that she really understood what high and low culture was, and fashion, for her, was more about imagination. I think with this whole sense of disposable fashion…I think she would get it but she was always the kind of woman that would go to Paris, shop and bring back things that nobody can find anywhere else.
Unfortunately, all of that is disappearing – you know, there’s this whole sense of unique that’s disappearing from society, especially in fashion. You have these conglomerates running the fashion world now, and I think she would just want people to be really unique in their own tastes and style.
What impression of Diana do you hope audiences walk away with after seeing this documentary? How has she influenced you as both a person and an artist?
I really hope people leave with one thing and that’s that her message was not about fashion. It clearly transcended fashion and was more about living your life full of passion and driven by your passion and letting your imagination go wild. I think that that’s how more than just fashion people look at (this film); it’s not just for the fashion crowd. I hope people become inspired and get inspired to do something that they’ve always wanted to do.
I think, personally, after completing this project and the book (also titled “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel”) and learning about her over the years, I would love to take away her openness to different cultures and ideas of people. I hope I can take that away and become more open about things. I think that this whole sense that she had this desire to live her life with this great passion, I really admire that. I’ve been pretty fortunate that I’ve been able to do it, but I think we can all use a teeny, little reminder to live like that.
"Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel" opens Friday at Harkins Camelview.