Lavish Rebellion Salutes: the documentary, Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel

The world’s most famous fashion editor may be–without a doubt–Anna Wintour of American Vogue. Yet as time goes on, Diana Vreeland is one of a selected cabal of brilliant geniuses of 20th century art that despite their wonderful originality, obtain an odd under the radar veil to their legacies.

Though the aforementioned Wintour has obtained a massive amount of clout for both her more stoic direction and persona, even outpowering as far as public display goes, the fascination of fellow influentials like Carine Roitfeld, Franca Sozzani, Kate Lanphear, Linda Fargo, and even Wintour’s right-wing woman Grace Coddington, Vreeland laid the extremely colorful, thoughtful, and downright outre potential of the proclaimed fashion bible that is Vogue during her everything is beautiful reign. Wintour stripped away at it when she became the storied magazine’s Editor in Chief in 1988, years after Vreeland was surprisingly fired.

Vreeland was at Vogue from 1962 to 1971, and before that she was the in charge of Harper’s Bazaar from 1936-1962. Having earned such tenures at esteemed publications, it really is interesting that Vreeland’s contributions are sometimes misbegotten, thus her presence in popular culture has been lower than it should be, but she has been incarnated on film through cameo appearances in the biopics Factory Girl about Edie Sedgwick and Infamous based on Truman Capote’s process of writing In Cold Blood, both respectively played by Illeana Douglas and Juliet Stevenson. She was actually, the accidental fashion leader but a natural fashion icon. On September 29, it would’ve been her 111th birthday in 2014, and in 2012, the documentary based on her Parisian and American upbringing, career as an editor, and consultant for what is today the biggest event in fashion, the Costume Institute which is held annually at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, was a soaring tribute to an underrated martyr for the unique.

The Eye Has to Travel is wonderful, uplifting, and a thorough visual tribute to a fashion great. A moving scrapbook, an utter reverie, it was ambitiously produced and directed by her kin, great granddaughter-in-law Lisa Immordino-Vreeland and similar to to the documentary on Tupac Shakur, Tupac: Ressurection, Vreeland herself narrates the film with audio and video clips from her best interviews. There are also commentary from the peers, friends, and co-workers that remember such an outre personality best.

Though it seemed the vivacious Vreeland obtained it all, she honestly shared the doubts she held, what had hurt her, and what inspired her. She grew up feeling her mother treated as the ugly duckling of the family and though the unconditional love was mutual, they always had a detached form of communication otherwise. She was a socialite of the Roaring 20s and her larger than life aura got her through any insecurities she had within. Her knack for the wild and peculiar almost made her a tad naive and transpire as frivolously uneducated because she didn’t always do her research to the fullest. If she liked what she saw, that was that, but because her eyes and mind gravitated to the usual and unexpected, the results were magical and a league of their own. When watching the film now, it recalls what comedienne Sarah Silverman had tweeted for fellow controversial comic Joan Rivers and her passing when she wrote: “I’m torn. She wasn’t done”. It seemed by the end of Vreeland’s life, she still had so much to bring to life, but her otherworldly images live on.

Some notable fashion moments during he Vreeland era at both Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue was her discovery of the 1960s “youthquake”; being directly involved with the first chapter of the supermodels (Donyale Luna; Twiggy; Jean Shrimpton) and in using actresses as models in their profiles (her decision to place Lauren “Betty” Bacall on the cover of Harper’s Bazaar is said to have kick-started the legend’s film career); she prominently displayed Barbra Streisand’s famous nose; she was the muse for characters in the films Funny Face and Who Are You Polly Maggoo?; fashionably guided Jacqueline Kennedy during JFK’s run for the presidency; used African and Asian art as umbrellas of artful persuasion… Case in point, she was ahead of her time while representing the willingness to break free from the norm which was very much a movement itself during the late ’50s, ’60s, and unto the 1970s. Was she gaudy? Yes. Was she creative? Absolutely. Was she so overwhelmingly lost in what could be, it seemed she was here but not really here? Yes, but that’s also what made her emotionally indelible.

In using her voice as the narration, her tone is warm, lush, and animated. It’s hard to not to admire Vreeland and since produced in a non-solipsistic manner, The Eye Has to Travel seeks to encourage its viewers that being different does matter. A great film that can be enjoyed by anyone willing to learn from an underrated iconoclast and embrace their inner beauty long after her voice fades away in memory of her legacy.

Below is a list of memorable quotes from the film. Remember them, memorize them, become them when you’re forgetting that you’re just as capable as anybody else in being great.


  1. “She would say, push their faults. If they have a space between their teeth, make it the most beautiful thing about them”.
  2. “Bob, you’re not suppossed to give people what they want. You’re supossed to give people what they don’t know they want yet’.
  3. “A new dress doesn’t get you anywhere. It’s the life you’re living in the dress”.
  4. “She understood the genius of vulgarity”.
  5. “She used to say: if an 8-year-old girl from Harlem doesn’t understand what she’s looking at, I’m wasting my time”.
  6. “You can’t go around like a smug mademoiselle”.
  7. “I realized if I was going to make it, I had to stand out”.
  8. “Josephine Baker was simply the only girl in the chorus line! All you could feel was something good coming from her. She had that…that thing…that pizazz!
  9. “I believed in love at first sight because that’s what it was”.
  10. “The best thing about London…was Paris”.
  11. “No one had a better sense of luxury than Coco Chanel. She really had the spirit of the 20th century. She completely understood what women’s lives were going to be. They were going to take subways. That they were going to walk in the rain. She was very rigorous, and rigorous…!”
  12. On Adolf Hitler: “That mustache was unbelievable. It was hilarious. It was just wrong”.
  13. “No, I have that reputation of not being easy [to work with]. And I am! I’m charging, I’m very easy. But naturally, I expect someone to do just as much work as I do. Which I believe is not usual”.
  14. “She threw your way of thinking”.
  15. “She gave fantasy to fashion, and romanticized it”.


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