The Twenty SS20 Issue

Vivid: Fashion Goddesses and Their Lasting Legacies

By Jo Phillips

It’s rare to find people in the world of fashion with legacies that last for decades. Although few achieve this, it’s important to reflect on those who do. Both Sandy Schreier—the world’s largest collector of couture—and Diana Vreeland— noted fashion editor of Harper’s Bazaar and Editor-in-Chief of Vogue, have achieved the status of a “Fashion Goddess.” Below is a reflection on what these iconic fashion influencers have accomplished and what is in store for the future.

DIANA VREELAND, THE EMPRESS OF FASHION: AMERICAN SOCIALITE, FASHIONISTA, COLUMNIST

Diana Vreeland began her iconic career as a journalist at Harper’s Bazaar in 1936. After noticing Mrs. Vreeland’s distinctive style and gown one night at a party, the Bazaar editor at the time, Carmel Snow, tried Mrs. Vreeland. Mrs. Snow provided Diana with the rare attention and opportunity to swiftly enter the fashion world at large. Mrs. Vreeland began with the column “Why Don’t You…?” making her the ultimate American housewife savant, as she offered outlandish fashion and lifestyle tips in every edition. What made her character unique is the way in with she took fashion so seriously and openly disagreed the American approach to fashion.

As she moved up through the ranks, Mrs. Vreeland became the fashion editor at Harper’s Bazaar for 26 years until 1960 where she would leave an ever-lasting legacy, establishing herself as one of the world’s leading experts of style.  Then, in 1962 Vreeland joined Vogue as Editor-in-Chief where she would continue as an influential icon in the fashion world.

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“She enjoyed her social and professional status at Vogue and wrote beautifully descriptive fashion columns expressing the budding fashion scene of the 60s. She was a lover of originality, defying everything that was conventional and frozen in time.”

If it were not for Mrs. Vreeland, Vogue would not have become what it is today—“she made it into the golden years of Vogue” by highlighting the unusual and imperfect features of people rather than exclusively focusing on the classic ideas of beauty.

In 1971, Mrs. Vreeland left Vogue but NOT the world of fashion. She became the primary consultant to the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, and is credited for putting together around twelve different fashion exhibitions. Mrs. Vreeland took her influential powers with her as “she revolutionized the role of museums by exhibiting FASHION as ART and successfully captivating crowds.”

DIANA VREELAND PARFUMS

Diana Vreeland’s grandson, Alexander, longed to carry on his famed grandmother’s impressive legacy by way of producing a long lasting sensation as she did with her life. Mrs. Vreeland adored perfumes and would routinely use fragrance to freshen herself up. Among the several rituals Mrs. Vreeland deemed essential, presenting oneself in a proper manner—accompanied by a signature smell—was one that stood out above all else. She believed there to be romantic and mysterious aspects within a fragrance, leading to incite a sense of fascination and desire when worn. This inspiration led to the creation of Diana Vreeland Parfums.

Diana Vreeland Parfums partnered with International Flavors and Fragrances to produce a luxurious collection consisting of the highest quality perfumes. The aim of this collection was to create a diverse range of fragrances to bring about the qualities Mrs. Vreeland believed were captured in a perfume.

The distinctively bold fragrances that came out of this desire turned out to be enduring and passionate. Each one is unique in its own way, just as Mrs. Vreeland’s admiration for diverse cultures and beauty is exquisitely expressed in this collection.

The three new fragrances are Simply Divine, Outrageously Vibrant, and Daringly different. The scents have been determined as parfum absolu’s because they contain a greater concentration of fragrance oil — 25 percent — than the standard 15 to 18 percent that make up an eau de parfum.

 

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Simply Divine: “An ode to the exceptional beauty and luminous expression of the iconic tuberose flower, magnified by fresh notes of crushed leaves and a touch of nutmeg. Wrapped in sandalwood, lush orange flower and jasmine emanate from the heart.”

Outrageously Vibrant: “A daring, unexpected fragrance rich with patchouli and a sophisticated rose bouquet contrasted impeccably with the electric, saturated, and exuberant facets of cassis.”

Daringly Different: “This hypnotic scent of luxurious and sophisticated iris is balanced with the deep smokey faces of our complemented by nuances of Turkish rose, tonka, and leathery notes.”

SANDY SCHREIER, FASHION LEGEND: WORLD’S LARGEST COUTURE COLLECTOR

Sandy Schreier is the world’s largest private collector of couture clothing. Her vast collection includes over 15,000 pieces of American fashion and iconic Hollywood costumes, and French couture—including some of the most important pieces of the twentieth century. Moreover, Mrs. Schreier has written four books, Hollywood Dressed & Undressed: A Century of Cinema Style; Hollywood Gets Married; and most recently Desperately Seeking Fashion. Furthermore, Mrs. Schreier is a fashion historian, as she has worked with a plethora of curators for numerous costume exhibits all around the globe. Pieces from Mrs. Schreier’s collection that date back to the late-ninteenth century all the way to the present have been displayed at the Louvre, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Hermitage, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and more.

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Emotionally, what do you consider to be the most important piece(s) of your collection and why?

This is a question I’ve answered many many times and my answer was always the same:  that my
husband Sherwin, who I was with since the age of 13, was always the most important piece in
my collection.  But, sad to say, I lost him to Cancer a short time ago.

What is the smallest, and most delicate piece you own?

The smallest and most fragile are the Poiret scent bottles.  The most delicate is the Poiret parasol with the Dufy fabric.  When the Metropolitan Museum in New York showed it in their Poiret exhibition, I persuaded them not to open it fully, for fear the rare fabric would split. Another “small” piece of the collection is the famous Twiggy dress worn by the famous petite model of the Sixties.  The Met had to get a special mannequin for their exhibit because it’s very  small size.  Twiggy wore the metal mesh mini, in a Richard Avedon photo for Vogue, August 1, 1967. It was designed by Roberto Rojas, who has recently become a personal friend.

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Have you ever acquired a piece in your collection that has truly, above all others,  lived up to the grandeur of its significance?

You could be talking about dozens of significant pieces, but a PAQUIN evening gown from 1939 stands out.  It is orange and green chiffon with appliqued poppies and the dress evokes John McCrae’s poem “In Flander’s Field:
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“In Flanders Fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses row on row

That mark our place;  and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.  Short days ago

We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe;

To you from falling hands we throw

The torch;  be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders Fields.

This gown was shown at The Met’s exhibition BLITHE SPIRIT, along with the Duchess of Windsor’s wedding gown.

What was one of the hardest pieces you fought to get and why?

The hardest pieces were probably the Gladiator by Mugler, which I bought at a Paris auction and Rudi Gernreich’s “topless” swimsuit.  In an article about me in Architectural Digest, I said that the only piece that I needed to “complete” my collection was Rudi’s topless.  I was a friend of the designer and his topless model , Peggy Moffitt, is still a good friend.  Of course, she owns one (or two or three), but mine was hard to come by. Many years after the article appeared, a reader saw an old issue of Architectural Digest and remembered that his aunt owned one and had just passed away. It was in the original box and had never been worn.

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As the world’s largest private collector of couture, where do you feel couture is headed? What direction?

Is the end of couture in sight?:  I hope not, but, since retailing is going through such drastic changes, I fear that the couture may be a dying art form. It’s almost embarrassing to speak about, collect, admire, and/or purchase couture in the times in which we live: a time of worldwide terrorism, homelessness, starvation and disease.  Too many more problems to list. . ..If The Couture lives on, it will, no doubt, go down as the great eye candy of the 20th/21st centuries.

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Which items in your collection do you consider to stand out against all others? Are there pieces where the craft is so magnificent that you actually marvel at them? If so, then what makes them stand out and why?

The pieces that stand out, that is, to the general public, are not the most intellectual, nor the most valuable, but are a representation of fashion and couture as part of the art form known as “pop” culture, meaning they are, for the most part, highly recognizable and popular with today’s society. Some examples are Rudi’s “topless,” Mr. Saint Laurent’s “Mondrian or Picasso” dresses; Bjork’s “swan dress,” (worn at The Oscars); Mark Spitz’s Olympic swimsuit; Farrah Fawcett’s poster swimsuit; Madonna’s Gaultier gold lame corset; anything with the label Alexander McQueen, etc., etc.

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Where is the strangest place you ever acquired a piece from?

I found a great Balenciaga (and also a fabulous Poiret) in a bag of rags under a table at an outdoor Farmer’s market in mid-Michigan along with fruit and vegetables.  Those days, I fear, are gone forever.

Being that Diana Vreeland was at one point the consultant for the Costume            Institute at the Met, and knowing that several of your pieces have been featured in many collections at the Met throughout the years, did you ever have any connection or interactions with Diana Vreeland? And if so, what were your interactions like?

I’m proud to say that most of The Met curators have been and still are my good friends.  I only met Mrs. Vreeland one time.

Is there anything you feel as passionate about the way you do about collecting couture?

Of course I’m passionate about my family, especially my seven grandchildren, who are all gorgeous and talented geniuses!  But, this year, music has come back into my life by way of a new friend.  In a past lifetime, I was a concert pianist but, with raising four children, appearing on TV, doing stage engagements, Writing books and articles, etc., etc., the music lover in me all but disappeared and it’s surprise reappearance has helped me move on with my life, a new life without my husband.