There are two elements behind the greatness of legendary fashion editor Diana Vreeland (1903-1989). The first is her work as fashion editor of Harper’s Bazaar and editor-in-chief of American Vogue during forties to the seventies, where she revolutionized what were once high society bibles into must-read publications that not only captured but also shaped the spirit of the time. Filling the pages with her own vision of fantasy and style informed by her knowledge of art and history, Vreeland pioneered new talents (photographer David Bailey, model Twiggy and fashion house Missoni were just some of her discoveries) and collaborations with artists (Andy Warhol sketched regularly for Harper’s Bazaar). She is credited with creating the fashion magazines that we know today. And then there is the greatness of the stylish woman herself: sophisticated, intelligent, deliciously quotable (“Elegance is refusal”, is just one of many of her bon mots), and her signature look of heavily rouged cheeks (“Is it Kabuki enough?” she would jokingly ask) all contributing to her iconic status.

Both her work and style are celebrated in the first major exhibition dedicated to Vreeland which is on show at Palazzo Fortuny, Venice, until June 25. “Diana Vreeland After Diana Vreeland” is conceived not as a retrospective but as a showcase of the essence of her work and the ‘aura’ of Vreeland herself. Alongside a curated selection of magazines and tear sheets are outfits either worn by Vreeland, put together by her, or which capture her aesthetic. From Vreeland’s own wardrobe are ensembles by Yves Saint Laurent and Givenchy loaned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. One installation of all green dresses (the colour was one of her “obsessions”) includes pieces by Yves Saint Laurent, Paco Rabanne and Irene Galitzine. Perhaps what is most striking is the timelessness of the melange on display which works to prove Vreeland’s declaration that, “Style is something you’re born with.”

Fellow fashion editor Amy Fine Collins has said that Vreeland found her greatest calling at 69, as the driving force of the Metropolitan Museum’s Costume Institute. And her grandson, Alexander Vreeland, noted at the Palazzo Fortuny’s opening, that it is fitting that Diana Vreeland’s visionary talent is being celebrated in a museum space: “She made the relation between fashion and art. This is standing on her shoulders. For important fashion to be seen in a museum, she forged that territory.”

Diana Vreeland After Diana Vreeland
Palazzo Fortuny, Venice
Until June 25