diana vreeland: the vogue years

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there has always been air of dignified mystery around diana vreeland. a certain je ne sais quoi of how she turned a simple society magazine into the raison d’etre of the fashion publishing industry.

well now, thanks to her adoring grandson, alexander vreeland, part of her veil has been lifted through the new book diana vreeland memos: the vogue years. the book – a collection of over 250 personal correspondence pieces – is a fashion-fueled journey of creativity, prescience and an unwavering dedication to originality.

perhaps what is more interesting, is that the memos give detailed insight into how a she managed both creatives and the creative process.  notes to richard avedon, cecil beaton, cristobal balenciaga, coco chanel illustrate the nuance with which she operated, delicately cajoling these luminaries into producing some of their best, most illuminating work.

her notes share hints of that special sauce, that ideal formula, the one all we aspiring editors, wannabe game-changers, and deprived fashion writers crave to hold in our back pockets. she seemed to understand that perfect balance between sass and entitlement, between inspiration and execution, and through it all getting exactly what she wanted.

some may see it as ennobled coffee table book, though those who look more deeply (and you know, don’t mind following in vreeland’s footsteps) will see it is a guide for greatness.

be frisky, be direct, be original. be diana.

 

fashion as fine art

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annie leibovitz’s “alice in wonderland” – vogue, 2003

art versus fashion. fashion versus art. a question of the ages. an argument as old as david and goliath.

ok, well not quite, but as art and fashion become increasingly more democratic, the two titans of aesthetic industry seem to be crossing paths more than ever.

while schaparelli might have started the conversation and designers such as hussein chalayan have kept it going, it is not until the past decade – with exhibits such as mcqueen at the met and a louis vuitton/marc jacobs retrospective at les arts decoratifs in paris – that art has truly given fashion a much-deserved spotlight. thus angling the designer’s cultural perception far more toward artiste than garmento.

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irving penn’s “harlequin dress” 1950

however now, a whole new medium comes to light. not from stitches and revolutionary draping, but in the form of the fashion photograph.

case and point? a lecture at this weekend’s annual photo la exhibit in santa monica, lead by vogue’s director of photography, ivan shaw. while 40 galleries from around the country showcased snapshots of time, emotion and experience, a panel of the industry’s foremost imageologists (this may or may not be a made up word) waxed poetic about the changes in fashion photography and the commodification of the editorial image.

according to the panel it is not so much that the fashion photograph of yesteryear didn’t meet the standards – just look at any shot from herb ritts, irving penn or lillian bassman – but rather, it seems as if one day the common man (and by common man i mean the overly wealthy, i-dont-know-where-to-spend-my-money collector) woke up, opened his wife’s vogue (most likely annie leibovitz’s alice in wonderland story – because if you are unmoved by that, you probably don’t have a soul) and decided “hey, this looks neat, i will call it art and spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on it.”

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steven meisel’s “a walk in paris”

why this notion took so many years for the collecting community to catch on to and the art world to support is beyond me. annie leibovitz, the proverbial moses of the group, has inconspicuously and quite possibly subconsciously, been shepherding this movement since her days of whoopie in a white tub. she might not have said it out loud, but you knew – this is a statement, this is art.

however, the panel gave a more likely and less romanticized reason as to this newfound art-world acceptance – the fashion photographers of today, are not just one-dimensional camera clickers, but aesthetic wunderkinds with a list of never-ending talents – lagerfled, tom ford, hedi slimane, poster boy geniuses of the slasher (i.e. designer/photographer/direct/writer) generation.

that being said, the rise is still a slow one, and while herb ritts and avedon are finally getting their day at getty, the collecting community has only just began to dip their big toes in the editorial pond. just think for the price of $83,000 you can get your own steven meisel’s “a walk in paris” to hang in the foyer. from what i hear that’s a real steal in the art world…