The new documentary film, The Eye Has to Travel, reveals the fascinating story of Diana Vreeland, the late, legendary fashion editor who created a unique persona while turning Vogue into the iconic and influential magazine it remains today.
Diana was born in Paris, into a fashionable and flamboyant family, and was self-made in the truest sense of the word. She wasn’t beautiful, but she was brilliant, creative, and daring – and she needed that resourcefulness; her beautiful mother called her “my ugly little monster.” So, Diana quickly learned to stand up for herself, and how to stand out from the crowd. She understood the power of clothes and wit, because they were her armor. The magical illusions Diana Vreeland created on the pages of Vogue, she first created for herself.
Before Madonna “expressed herself” or Lady Gaga was “born that way,” Diana Vreeland preached the gospel of style and self-expression. “You gotta have style,” Vreeland said. “It helps you get down the stairs. It helps you get up in the morning. It’s a way of life. Without it, you’re nobody. I’m not talking about lots of clothes.”
The cleverly-made documentary matches an hour and thirty six minutes of interviews, mostly with Vreeland herself, to riveting archival footage. After being fired from Vogue Magazine, Vreeland had the author and journalist George Plimpton interview her for her own autobiography D.V.
Fortuitously, Plimpton had the foresight to tape the 36 hours of conversations that make up the bulk of the film.
Diana Vreeland profoundly influenced me as young girl. I would pore over each issue of her magazine. I was transfixed by her vision of the world, and too young to know it wasn’t real. I began a lifelong love affair, not with clothes, but with fashion, as it was portrayed in the pages of Diana Vreeland’s Vogue. I still have a crystalline recall of the famous photos she commissioned from Richard Avedon of Veruschka. The model was wrapped in miles of blond hair, posing on a stunning palomino horse. Chic shots of Marisa Berenson, draped in jewels with fabulous mod makeup and hair, were staged in Morocco. It was all so delicious and exciting.
Diana Vreeland taught me the importance of fashion. “Vogue always did stand for people’s lives,” she once said. “I mean, a new dress doesn’t get you anywhere; it’s the life you’re living in the dress, and the sort of life you had lived before, and what you will do in it later."  
Thank heaven for my father. He never worried that I was too young to read Vogue. He fed my magazine and fashion habits even while I was in junior high. My grandmother, who had worked for the only couture house in Boston and adored clothes, also fed my passion. I regret that neither of them lived long enough to share how excited I was to work for glossy fashion magazines. I would have loved to tell them about helping to launch Vogue Russia.
I knew some people thought my London Mod makeup and miniskirts were outrageous, but I adored those looks. Diana Vreeland faced the same censure for her style. “When I arrived in America,” she said, “I had these very dark red nails which some people objected to, but then some people object to absolutely everything.” 
When my husband was offered the chance to work as the CTV News bureau chief in Moscow in the 1990s, I was beside myself with excitement. Many people were surprised. It seems that many wives had greeted similar assignments with trepidation. This was a superb opportunity for my husband, but I was excited for myself, too. Fresh in my mind were Diana Vreeland’s rhapsodies over “her beloved Russians.” I remembered every word she had ever commissioned or uttered about the Ballet Russes, Sergei Diaghilev, and the brilliant dancer, Vaslav Nijinsky.
Once in Moscow, I was determined to discover the secret beauty treatments that Vogue hinted about in all those articles I had read years before. I was soon a regular at the Russian banya, or steam bath. In the pages of Mrs. Vreeland’s Vogue, the banya had been painted as temple of mysterious beauty rituals. It was true. I luxuriated in the steam, massage, and facials. I had regular and fabulous pedicures. I relished the company of beautiful and generous Russian women. I was hooked. No one could drag me to pricy western salons for second-rate treatments; I had found real Russian beauty heaven. (Things have changed and now there are now many options in Moscow.) I wasn’t at all interested in the popular expat group trips to banyas to eat and drink too much – horrors! No, my beauty rituals were sacred. This was my chance to dig deeply into the feminine side of Russia, and I delighted in it.
Diana Vreeland’s inspiration led me to my first major assignment for a glossy magazine in Moscow. I was asked to write about massage for Russian Elle. That led to my becoming first beauty director at Vogue Russia and part of its launch team.
I thought of Diana Vreeland often in Moscow. When I listened to her full-throated voice in The Eye Must Travel, I was transported back to those days.
When Vreeland was fired from Vogue, she fell into a deep depression. But she soon got the chance to organize fashion exhibits at the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and continue her work in a dramatic new way. Her exhibits drew crowds of international celebrities and there were long lines for days to get into see them.
She was 70 years old.
“There’s only one very good life and that’s the life you know you want and you make it yourself,” Diana Vreeland famously said. It is fabulous advice from a woman who did just that with style, courage, originality, and as she would say, “pizzazz”.