Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel is a compelling portrait of one of fashion’s most idiosyncratic characters.
The film is more of a snapshot of the style icon’s colourful life rather than an in-depth documentary, and is constructed through voice-overs and old footage interspersed with talking heads.
It opens with excerpts from personal tapes from a conversation with her biographer, but it is TV interviews with Vreeland, mostly from her later years, that give insight into her droll personality. Vreeland was the Queen of pithy one-liners and classics such as “The best thing about London is Paris” make for entertaining fodder for the documentary.
A host of notable stars add interest with personal tales of their experiences with the unconventional Vreeland, such as iconic photographer David Bailey, shoe designer Manolo Blahnik, and actresses Angelica Huston and Ali McGraw.
Vreeland made her name at Harper’s Bazaar, having joined the magazine as a columnist in 1937. Her ‘Why Don’t You’ column became an instant hit, doling out eccentric and lavish advice such as “Why Don't You wash your blond child's hair in dead champagne, as they do in France.”
Vreeland left Harper’s Bazaar in 1963, becoming editor-in-chief for Vogue, where she revolutionised the fashion world with her out-there editorial shoots and unusual approach. Under her leadership, model’s flaws were celebrated and the escapist nature of fashion was promoted.
While her fashion career is well documented here, the editor’s private life is glossed over. Her complicated relationship with her socialite mother is merely hinted at, while interviews with her two sons suggest that Vreeland herself was not the most doting of mothers. Her relationship with her husband, who died of cancer in 1966, is also not explored at all, which leaves this documentary a bit one-sided on her professional career.
It is clear that fashion, her profession and maintaining a fabulous, dreamlike lifestyle was at the forefront of Vreeland’s priorities, and in this way we do get a sense of her driving ambitions and outlook on life.