As the granddaughter-in-law of iconic Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief Diana Vreeland, Lisa Immordino Vreeland has legendary t-strap heels to fill. Polished nightly, this was just one of the eccentric editrix’s Why Don’t You? style tenets. With her enlightening new coffee table book (and an accompanying documentary), The Eye Has To Travel, Immordino Vreeland is revealing a different side of the woman who reigned supreme in fashion circles from 1936 until her death in 1989. We sat down with the accomplished first-time author at Teatro Verde in Toronto.
Q: When did you first get the idea for the book?
A: “It was easily 3 years ago. I was living in Paris at the time. That’s what she loved. She’d say, “Arrange to be born in Paris, that’s the first thing you should do with your life.” I began research at the Condé Nast archives. This book was to show what she visually donated to the world. I had to do this with fresher images.”
Q: What was behind the cover choice? It’s striking to see Mrs. Vreeland captured in a different light against a Frank Lloyd Wright structure.
A: “I didn’t want a red book. All of the books that she’s done have been red, it’s not as interesting. The photograph I selected was from World War II-era in Arizona. They were trying to show off the great American West. The model was sick so she just stepped in.”
Q: How do you think she would feel about the prevalence of social media and celebrity culture in fashion today?
A: “Near the end of her life, she was a celebrity herself. She would love Lady Gaga, but she would probably get bored of her if she ran out of interesting things to say. To her if you had nothing to say then there was no reason for conversation. She would have embraced the Internet. She had so many one-liners in Harper’s Bazaar, almost like her own form of blogging.”
Q: Do you think anyone in fashion will ever achieve her level of influence?
A: “Today, I’m not sure how visionary we can be. I think there’s much less creativity because of the Internet and Twitter. People are no longer looking for things because it’s right there. Back then, she gathered people around her of all ages who helped frame her stories. She continued the discussion throughout her life, especially with the MET Costume Institute. She had this extraordinary life, but she also had this extraordinary imagination and that’s what makes people visionaries.”
Q: What do you think would be alluring to her today?
A: “She felt it was very important that it’s not about the dress you wear, but the life you lead in the dress. It doesn’t have to do just with style. She’s really part of the fashion vocabulary – people see photographs of her and are still inspired by what she did. If you think about her outward shell, she was known to be extravagant, with red lips and cheeks against dark hair. I really wanted to show that she was so much more – she was all about pushing a lot of buttons. For her it wasn’t just about fashion, it was about life.”