When the Vreelands returned to New York in 1934, Harper’s Bazaar editor-in-chief Carmel Snow tapped the ever-stylish Diana to join the masthead. It was a prescient hire. Unlike her predecessors, who took their fashion cues from conservative Park Avenue doyennes, Vreeland pushed the envelope. She was one of the first editors to feature models in blue jeans, thong sandals and the bikini. Citing this relentless pursuit of the new, many regard her as the first true fashion editor.
Vreeland stayed at Harper’s Bazaar for 26 years. However, when the magazine passed her over for the editor-in-chief position, she jumped ship to Vogue, where, in 1962, she took the helm. The next nine years redefined the magazine. Vreeland took Vogue from a stuffy society rag to a publication perfectly in tune with the ’60s and its spirit of rebellion and creative freedom, offering meaty profiles on rock musicians (Mick Jagger, John Lennon) and exotic fashion shoots in far-flung locales.
In 1971, Vreeland left Vogue and soon thereafter resurfaced at the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute. There, too, she worked her magic, dusting off the cobwebs and breathing new life into the museum with glamorous retrospectives on subjects like Yves Saint Laurent and classic Hollywood. Though Vreeland passed away in 1989, her legacy lives on through books, films and assorted projects. Most recently, her grandson Alexander launched a fragrance collection based entirely on her favorite scents, bottling it in glass vials tinted red (her signature color).
To celebrate the life of this extraordinary (and extraordinarily violet) woman, VIOLET GREY reached out to an assortment of her former colleagues and friends and asked them to speak to her lasting influence in the fashion world as well as share their fondest memories. Tidbits from those conversations, below.
“Diana's most exceptional quality (apart from wit and imagination) was her ability to spot talent in others and to nurture it.” — PENELOPE TREE, WRITER AND FORMER MODEL
“She had a vision that was like no one else’s. Five hundred years ahead of everyone! She evoked in one word what it would take others volumes to say. And she was absolutely and wonderfully fearless. I love that.” — MANOLO BLAHNIK, SHOE DESIGNER
“One of my favorite memories of Diana is of walking down the street with her arm in arm, and her saying, ‘Never look down. Always look up!’ Sometimes that meant falling off the curb, but at least you wouldn’t get a double chin.” — PENELOPE TREE, FORMER MODEL
“One afternoon in 1983, Diana invited me to her apartment to have a chat. During my visit, I told her I was thinking of moving to the West Side [of Manhattan]. She tried to talk me out of this idea for 20 minutes. She had unshakable aesthetic views, and she disliked intensely that neighborhood. I was really surprised, but after all this was Diana with her assertive opinions.” — PILAR CRESPI, PRESIDENT OF SOURCE OF HOPE FOUNDATION AND FORMER MODEL
I remember walking down the street with her arm in arm, and her saying, ‘Never look down. Always look up!’ Sometimes that meant falling off the curb, but at least you wouldn’t get a double chin.
She had a VISIONTweet This
that was like no one else’s. Five hundred years ahead of everyone!