“Style—all who have it share one thing: originality.” - Diana Vreeland
When it comes to pioneers in the fashion industry, very few, if any, have had the valor and astonishing eye for fashion as Diana Vreeland did. More than twenty-five years after her death, Vreeland still holds her place as one of the most iconic fashion figures in history. After growing up in Paris, she made her first big appearance in the industry as a columnist for Harper’s Bazaar in 1936. She later moved up the editorial ladder and became the magazine’s fashion editor until the early 1960’s. She was known for her unorthodox sense of style and unique lifestyle and fashion tips. Vreeland was one of the first to suggest that fashion was art, and should be treated as a way to express oneself.
In 1962, Vreeland made the biggest move of her career, leaving Harper’s Bazaar and becoming editor-in-chief at Vogue. Her eye for upcoming trends was on point, and she even went on to spot and endorse the bikini - a foreign concept that went on to become a fashion staple, all thanks to her fearless sense of art and style. In her many years, she worked with well-known photographers such as Richard Avedon and Toni Frissell, to name a few.
Diana Vreeland was an advocate for thinking outside the box. In an interview, she commented on conservative critics who disagreed with her outlandish views, saying, “It’s that kind of thinking that holds holds people back for thousands of years”. Her modern way of thinking is what propelled her career and made her one of the most respected and well-known icons of the 20th century.
This week, I had the amazing opportunity to interview Chicago-based designer
, Leandro Mulet, who used Vreeland as his muse in his latest (and might I say, stunning) collection. I sat down with Leandro to get a better look into his gorgeous designs, and how the icon’s previous eye for art and fashion inspired him.
Diana Vreeland was and still is a fashion icon who forever changed the way we view fashion, culture, and art. How has she inspired you in your career as a designer?
Mrs. Vreeland was one of the must influential editors of her time. She not only brought fashion into the States, but also infused life in everything she touched. Her remarkable life had been a source of inspiration for me on many occasions, not only in a professional environment but also in my personal life as well. Recently I had the opportunity to read her biography, and it touched me deeply the way she saw life. I personally related to her in that manner, since my memories are as bright and colorful to describe as hers were. As a fashion designer, I constantly look for inspiration in everything around me. Mrs. Vreeland had been one of those iconic influences that I treasure dear to my heart.
What intrigues you the most about Vreeland?
The way she saw the world around her, is one of the things that intrigued me the most of Mrs. Vreeland. Everything seemed so intense and vibrant, full of life in every possible way. In her book, she transports you to all the wonderful places she visited and makes you part of the adventure through the way she describes her escapades. She makes you live it as if you were there.
What were some key components you wanted to incorporate when recreating Vreeland’s visions?
I wanted to incorporated her iconic gestures, the way she saw herself as a woman. Her femininity and her ballerina-like posture. You cannot imagine Diana Vreeland without red lipstick and hand gestures. She was all about presence, elegance, and attitude. I wanted to portray her unique characteristics, not only in a fashionable way but also in homage to her and her legacy.
Were there any of your own design elements that you integrated into the Vreeland-inspired pieces?
Absolutely, I wanted to represent her simplicity and sophistication in everything she wore. The detailed sleeves and fitted pants are very distinctive of Mrs. Vreeland’s aesthetic, so I wanted to stay true to her style while designing. In this particular shoot, Alessya is wearing high-waisted black pants with an organza and lace blouse with exaggerated bishop sleeves that represents, in my own vision, Diana's style.
How did you determine the color palette that was used in the collection?
When you think of Diana Vreeland and color, RED, RED, RED, is the main color that comes to mind. I had selected only one red dress to represent Mrs. Vreeland. I wanted to focus more on her black and white selections because it photographs so beautifully. I wanted to project the feeling of the 60s and 70's photography style. I believe photographer Carlos Rodolfo Chinchilla did wonderful work when capturing the essence of Mrs. Vreeland.
Were there any obstacles you faced portraying Mrs. Vreeland?
(Laughs) Yes indeed, we had a hard time while attempting to recreate her iconic hair style. Since we couldn't accomplish what I had in mind, we decided to adopt the turbans she was so fond of, and used that instead. I was very pleased to see our model wearing the different turbans, since Mrs. Vreeland is wearing one in my favorite photo of her.
The photos turned out beautifully. How was it communicating your visions for the collection to the photographer and models?
It was a wonderful experience. After doing the proper research, I sent the information to everyone on my team to do their own research and interpretation of Mrs. Vreeland. I explained to our model Alessya how iconic Mrs. Vreeland's manners were, and how deep was her passion for ballet. We wanted to pay tribute to Mrs. Vreeland, to showcase her in a proper, respectful and beautiful manner.
Your collection is very elegant and exquisite. What is your favorite piece and why?
Every time I am asked this question, I only have one answer - How can a parent choose a favorite child? (Laughs) My designs are part of me, I deeply love what I create, so it’s impossible to choose.
Ms. Vreeland was notorious for her fascinating quotes that are still seen in pop culture today. Is there a particular one that speaks to you or inspires you in your day-to-day life?
While reading her biography, I took approximately a hundred quotes out of the pages into my notebook. There is a particular one I printed and placed on my inspiration board and it will stay there for many collections to come: "A dress doesn't get you anywhere; it’s the life you're living in the dress... and what you will do in it later". - Diana Vreeland (D.V. by Diana Vreeland)
Model: Alessya Lasskaris
Wardrobe/Concept: Leandro Mulet
Photography: LICAR by Carlos Rodolfo Chinchilla