I have been eagerly awaiting the release of Lisa Immordino Vreeland's documentary film “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has To Travel” ever since it premiered at the Venice International Film Festival in 2011. I had been looking forward to interviewing her about her film after her talk at The American Library in Paris last March during Paris Fashion Week. Alas, even the best laid plans go awry and mine are no exception. One snafu after another after another caused my day to derail and I reluctantly had to cancel. Instead, Ms. Immordino Vreeland graciously accepted to submit to my questions via e-mail.
I held off publishing the interview in anticipation of the French release of the film which is scheduled for October 3rd. I'm grateful to Ms. Immordino Vreeland both for submitting to my questions and especially for making this film. Much has been written about the legendary Vogue editor but with the exception of Eleanor Dwight's biography, most of this material simply rehashes colourful anecdotes without really offering much insight. If the early reviews are any indication, this film promises to fill the void.
1. How did the project come about? What inspired you to make this film?
I felt that for some time no one had properly addressed Mrs. Vreeland's legacy. When I first started working on the book it was clear that I should simultaneously work on a documentary - I took my time and built a strong team around me. This was clearly a story that had to be told as Mrs. Vreeland continues to resonate in fashion today.
2. Diana Vreeland was a formidable character during her time and she's still revered by many today. What was it like for you to immerse yourself in her legacy? Were you intimidated?
It was a daunting task - if someone was to approach her legacy it it had to be done well and thoroughly. As soon as I immersed myself in the pages of Bazaar and Vogue I knew that I would be able to grasp the material and build the appropriate story around it. Yes - of course I was intimidated at first but as I got to know her through her work I realized that I was understanding who she was.
3. As a member of her extended family, did you feel a particular duty or pressure to honour her memory? Was it difficult for you to reconcile your role as a documentary film maker and family member?
My role as a family member is a side note - it helped me get access to people but in no way did I feel like I had to tell an orchestrated story. My storytelling was not compromised in any way and I chose what I felt were the most important aspects of her career and life. I wanted to be able to tell a story that the younger generation could relate to in order to have a full understanding of her accomplishments.
4. Even now, several decades after her death, Diana Vreeland continues to fascinate not only followers of fashion but many outside fashion as well. She's been the subject of books, articles, a Broadway play. Why do you suppose she still captivates people?
I think that Mrs. Vreeland was lucky to live in a time that a visionary, like she , was given full liberty to create what she wanted to. Her pages from her days at Bazaar and Vogue are the most influential images in fashion and imagery worldwide. She was able to create what she wanted to do and was not restrained by commercial and advertising demands.
5. The magazine industry is currently struggling for relevance. The influence of advertisers over editorial content is widely criticised. Many younger readers have gravitated towards the Internet. What do you think she would make of all this?
One of Mrs. Vreeland's greatest assets was that she was able to relate to everyone and everything. She would have found a way to use this to her advantage!
6. When you consider the current state of the magazine industry and the power of advertisers to dictate content, do you think someone like Diana Vreeland could even exist today? On a different platform perhaps?
Mrs. Vreeland was an original and today's fashion world is full of many unoriginal people. Magazines are operated in a different manner and editors need to respond to commercial needs - freedom has been replaced by compromise.
7. Are there any plans to release your film on DVD?
Yes - the film will be released by DVD but on a country by country basis.
The fashion industry especially would do well to study Diana Vreeland's legacy in detail and take its teachings to heart. You can view the official trailor for the movie here. I hope you take the time to go and see it.
The Luxe Chronicles