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“Blue jeans are the most beautiful things since the gondola,” once quipped Diana Vreeland, the former Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar editor, who was known for her bon mots as much as her love of the unexpectedly exotic, both in people and places. The Eye Has To Travel, a new documentary opening September 21 in New York and Los Angeles, peeks into her colorful life.
The film, directed by Lisa Immordino Vreeland, Vreeland’s granddaughter-in-law and a former fashion publicist turned writer/director, is overly sentimental and nostalgic at times, traits the style icon herself did not tolerate. But it remains a must-see for fans and shows a rare vulnerable side of Vreeland via candid interviews with her sons. It is also packed with talking-head testimonials from colleagues and friends, including Manolo Blahnik, Diane von Furstenberg, Oscar de la Renta and Anjelica Huston, who all note the mark she made on fashion and greater contemporary culture.
No piece on her, however, would be complete without discussing her flair for inducing wanderlust with legendary magazine spreads that transported audiences to faraway places at the dawn of the jet age. The film recounts some of these shoots from her publishing career, which spanned from 1937 to 1971, and reminds us that in a time when many women’s magazines teemed with cake recipes and columns about “fitting in,” Vreeland’s copy stood out with exotic imagery of Egypt, Japan, Morocco and India (of which she once famously remarked, “Pink is the navy blue of India.”). One could argue that today’s magazines sprouted from the early seeds she planted.
Vreeland lived in an era when travel was very much a part of the imagination, and she often loved the ideas of places and cultures more than the reality of them. In one of the film’s final scenes, Simon Doonan recounts an anecdote in which Vreeland confesses that she had not and would not travel to India because the idea of it could never live up to the fantasy in her mind. She, of course, summed up her stance best. “I really wouldn’t know anything about Russians,” she has said. “What I love is Russia!” dianavreeland-film.com.