Notes On Fashion, Color & Diana Vreeland

Notes On Fashion, Color & Diana Vreeland

Mark Chamberlain
Oct 30, 2012

There's a new documentary out on Diana Vreeland, and though I haven't seen it yet I look forward to it with great eagerness. I mention this here because as I was developing this column six years ago, I found her to be a tremendous source of inspiration.

For starters, she was endlessly quotable — "Pink is the Navy Blue of India;" "Elegance is refusal;" "Give 'em what they never knew they wanted!"

For another, we recently finished fashion week here in New York and I've been obsessed with the fashion pages lately. There's a set of 50 designers and 50 editors and buyers who determine half of what goes on in the world stylistically. For example, last winter Prada showed a collection of jacquard print suits in a reticulate pattern that I thought was stunning. Six months later Anna Wintour, the editor of Vogue, is sitting in the front row of another show wearing one of those suits, which means that collection is anointed. It also means that pattern is going to be on your cell phone covers next week, your kid's back pack next month, and your restaurant carpets and drapes next year. This pattern looks to the future but also looks like David Hicks textiles ca. 1970. Muicia Prada is already onto the next, creatively, but as an artist I've always been interested in how art and money have sex in public and create commerce.

Diana Vreeland had a column at Bazaar titled "Why Don't' You?" in the 1930s that was widely mimicked and ridiculed, and in which she dispensed bon mots such as "Why don't you wear violet mittens with everything?" "Why don't you have an elk-hide trunk for the back of your car? Hermès of Paris will make this. " "Why don't you paint a map of the world on all four walls of your boys' nursery so they won't grow up with a provincial point of view?" All meant to get you outside of your head and thinking outside of the box. I've tried to mimic it myself, with limited success.

Diana Vreeland had a living room in her Park Avenue Apartment that I've wanted to write about for years. It was a bright red all-over mille fleur designed by Billy Baldwin, and here's how she described it:

Red is the great clarifier — bright, cleansing, revealing. It makes all colors beautiful. I can't imagine being bored with it — it would be like becoming tired of the person you love. I wanted this apartment to be a garden — but it had to be a garden in hell.

I'll let you dig around the official Diana Vreeland website for more. Why don't you?

Diana Vreeland : The Eye Has To Travel

(Images: Horst P. Horst, 1979 via Diana

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