Diana Vreeland by Cecil Beaton, 1978.
Diana Vreeland once said of style that "all who have it share one thing: originality". She would know. On the one hand she was a true original, and on the other she was one of the most stylish people who ever lived.
Born Diana Dalziel in September 1903 in Paris – a fact she felt was vital to her stylistic development – Vreeland was the woman for whom the title "fashion editor" was invented during her tenure at Harper's Bazaar in the Thirties; whose editorship of American Vogue in the Sixties has become legend; and whose stewardship of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute, in the Seventies, helped transform fashion into something with permanence and gravitas. Vreeland changed the way we value fashion itself.
That perhaps explains why Marc Jacobs, the master of the moment, wrapped the venue of his autumn/winter 2015 New York Fashion Week show in a reimagining of Vreeland's Manhattan apartment. Chintzed to the hilt by famed interior decorator Billy Baldwin, and in the same shade of Chinese-lacquer red with which Vreeland varnished her nails and rouged her cheeks – and often her earlobes – she dubbed it, gleefully, a garden in hell. "And that's what fashion is," said Jacobs, backstage, after a show that included models with Vaselined hair, with spit-shiners backstage to polish the knee-high patent boots about to go down the runway (unshiny shoes, said Vreeland, are the end of civilisation).
Jacobs has clearly taken note of her memos. These legendary missives, issued while she was editing Vogue, declared her loves – pearls, freckles, serpents – and her pet peeves – tacky shoes and hair "dipped in salad oil". He isn't alone in using her for inspiration.
Vreeland featured widely this season. Her favourite animal prints appeared at Dior and Miuccia Prada's Miu Miu. Her signature shades of red and black dominated the shows. Fausto Puglisi dedicated his collection in part to her, too, alongside stray cats, Sicilian baroque and Madonnas (a combination of which Vreeland would undoubtedly have approved).