Film review: Diana Vreeland biopic shows an uncommon passion for fashion

Yvonne Teh

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 06 November, 2013, 10:39pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 06 November, 2013, 10:39pm

Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel
Starring: Diana Vreeland
Director: Lisa Immordino Vreeland
Category: IIA

Rating: 3.5/5


Diana Vreeland (1903-1989) was a fascinating woman who led a remarkable life. And this documentary produced and directed by her granddaughter-in-law Lisa Immordino Vreeland (with help from co-directors Bent-Jorgen Perlmutt and Frédéric Tcheng) pays fitting tribute to the fashion doyen.

Diana Vreeland was a Harper's Bazaar columnist turned fashion journalist who went on to be editor of Vogue and a consultant for the Costume Institute at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Immordino Vreeland never met Diana, but Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel clearly benefits from the filmmaker's unprecedented access to archival material associated with the revered tastemaker. Well-known names such as designers Manolo Blahnik and Oscar de la Renta, photographer David Bailey, and actresses Anjelica Huston and Ali MacGraw, who worked as her assistant before achieving stardom in Love Story, share their memories and insights.

The film's impressive array of Diana Vreeland quotes - among them, "Every girl in the world should have geisha training" - is further supplemented by actress Annette Miller giving voice to passages of a transcript based on Vreeland's 1984 autobiography D.V.

Vreeland's 10-year-old great-granddaughter Olivia (Immordino Vreeland's daughter) adds some more voiceover, reading snippets from the flamboyant fashion maven's whimsical "Why Don't You?" column.

Loosely chronological in form, the film focuses on Vreeland's life after 30, when she started work. In an era when few married women worked outside their homes, Vreeland openly enjoyed doing so. She clearly put heart and soul into ensuring that the fashion pages she edited at Harper's Bazaar and Vogue were never boring by adding energy, verve and fantasy to the subject.

Along the way she championed unconventional-looking women such as Lauren Bacall and Twiggy, and expanded the idea of what constitutes beauty.

Born during the belle époque period, she was able to adapt to the changing times, and appears to have enjoyed life in the Roaring Twenties and also during the 1960s "Youthquake", a term she coined.

Immordino Vreeland manages to get the film's interviewees to offer up a wealth of amusing anecdotes about a woman who could exasperate as well as enthral. But the highlights of this portrait of an uncommon woman are visual in nature.

Many of the spreads that appeared under her editorship show that the "Empress of Fashion" was truly visionary in the way she viewed the subject she so obviously loved.


Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel opens on November 7