Diana Vreeland: Firing Up the Legacy

Lisa Immordino Vreeland is breathing new life into the legendary fashion editor's legacy with a new documentary and a coffee-table book.

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Diana Vreeland

Photo By David Bailey

A Richard Avedon spread in Harper’s Bazaar.

Photo By The Richard Avedon Foundation, Reprinted with the Permission of the Hearst Corporation

Audrey Hepburn in Vogue.

Photo By Bert Stern/Vogue/Condé Nast Archive

The Maria Callas spread in Vogue.

Photo By Cecil Beaton/Vogue/Condé Nast Archive

Lisa Immordino Vreeland is breathing new life into Diana Vreeland’s legacy.

In the coming weeks, a documentary titled “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel,” along with a coffee-table book, will be released, followed by a traveling exhibition that kicks off at the Fortuny Museum in Venice in March. All are expected to stoke interest in the legendary fashion editor, whose career could be summed up in three stages: fashion editor of Harper’s Bazaar from 1937 to 1962; editor in chief of Vogue from 1962 to 1971, and a special consultant to the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute from 1972 until her death 17 years later.

Immordino Vreeland, the late editor’s granddaughter-in-law, directed and produced the documentary, which will make its debut at the Venice Film Festival Sept. 3. She also wrote the coffee-table book (Abrams, $55), which will hit bookstores Oct. 1. The film, based on numerous conversations that George Plimpton conducted with Diana Vreeland when he edited her autobiography, shows film clips from her early life, her career and her family, and features televised interviews with Dick Cavett, Jane Pauley, Diane Sawyer and Andy Warhol from his cult cable show on fashion. Designers such as Calvin Klein, Oscar de la Renta, Hubert de Givenchy and Diane von Furstenberg; photographers such as the late Richard Avedon and David Bailey, and editors and celebrities such as John Fairchild, Ingrid Sischy, Anjelica Huston, Marisa Berenson and Ali MacGraw also weigh in on Vreeland’s influence on the world of fashion and her extravagant, excessive ways.

“As soon as I started research for the book, I said to myself, ‘I should be working on a documentary,” said Immordino Vreeland, a first-time filmmaker. Married to Alexander Vreeland, the grandson of Diana Vreeland, the author-director felt the fashion editor’s life story was one that had to be told. She believes that the only “two great books” that have ever been done on her were written by Diana herself: “Allure” and “D.V.” her autobiography. “She had a life that was rich with so many different experiences. People need to know what this life was about,” she said.

Working nonstop the last three years, Immordino Vreeland got a rare glimpse into the life of one of the 20th century’s most original and colorful characters. She never met Diana Vreeland but had always been fascinated by her. She said that not having met her made the project easier. Her team includes Gloss Studio as executive producers; Frederic Tcheng and Bent Jorgen Perlmutt as editors and co-directors, and Mark Lee (chief executive officer of Barneys New York) as co-executive producer.

“I felt, because of my name, I’d be able to have more access, and I certainly had more access, but it’s not the access that mattered for me. It was the openness of the people of Condé Nast, Harper’s Bazaar and the Costume Institute. Just people wanting to tell their stories, being generous with their time and really wanting to embrace this,” said Immordino Vreeland, who graduated from Skidmore College with an art history degree. She previously ran her own fashion design and production consulting business, having earlier been director of public relations for Polo Ralph Lauren in Italy. She also launched Industria, Fabrizio’s Ferri’s sportswear line, and founded two fashion companies, Pratico and Mago.

While Diana Vreeland had an incredible eye for what was dramatic, new and exciting, Immordino Vreeland felt that she had been misunderstood, and there was so much more to her than people realize. First and foremost, she was able to spot talent and draw things out of people. She helped designers such as von Furstenberg, Manolo Blahnik and the Missonis launch their businesses. When the Missonis, who were working in Italy, came to New York to show their clothes, Vreeland called all the stores. “She was responsible for their business in America,” said Immordino Vreeland. She suggested to Blahnik, who was working on theatrical set designs, that he should be working on “extremities.”

“I just knew she had been slightly misunderstood because people were in love with her personality, her looks, her extravagance. But there was so much more depth to her. She pushed the limits on so many things. She was a society woman who worked really hard her whole life. She didn’t want to push for feminism in any way, but she did,” said Immordino Vreeland.

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