Despite her love of the past, Diana Vreeland was resolutely, dynamically modern. She shot the miniskirt, coined the phrase youth quake, and brought the then-unusual faces of Penelope Tree and Edie Sedgwick to the pages of Vogue. Vreeland had her finger on the pulse.
So, what would she wear today? Definitely not what she was wearing in the Sixties, nor when she died in 1989. I think she would have been wearing these clothes, says Suzanne von Aichinger – muse and stylist, who also modelled for this shoot.
Von Aichinger was once described by Yves Saint Laurents right-hand woman Loulou de la Falaise as the modern archetype of the Parisian woman. She was born in Germany and raised in Canada, but theres a lingering sense of Paris to her cupids bow lips and penetrating stare. A sense of Vreelands Paris, of those polished women who dressed in haute couture and had their gardening clothes made at Balenciaga (that was Mona von Bismarck, in case you were wondering).
Von Aichinger was discovered in New York by illustrator Antonio Lopez, while grocery shopping. I went to meet him and I pulled together a look. I was really nervous. As I walked into his studio, I saw this big Warhol portrait of Antonio… she pauses, laughs. It was the real deal! He came around the corner to meet me, and looked me up and down and then asked: Do you want to pose for me now? He put me in the Charles James Shrimp dress, – the style sometimes called Sirene, which originated in the 1930s – and that was the start of a close friendship. We did a lot of things together, Saint Laurent campaigns and Missoni.
Von Aichinger has modelled for designers including Azzedine Alaia, Claude Montana and Thierry Mugler, as well as working in-house as model-cum-inspiration, first for Christian Lacroix, then John Galliano, and latterly Jean Paul Gaultier – all stylish, all original. All very Vreeland.
The shoot was staged in Londons Maison Assouline, a bookshop that feels like anything but, whose exuberant furnishings and brimstone-hued walls seem very much in keeping with Vreelands aesthetic – I cant imagine becoming bored with red, she wrote in her 1984 autobiography, DV. It would be like becoming bored with the person you love.
Von Aichinger acted as model and stylist on the shoot, outfitting herself in a selection of clothes from designers as diverse as Marc Jacobs and Lanvin, Haider Ackermann and the Japanese designer Jun Takahashis label Undercover. She also chose an archive haute couture Yves Saint Laurent cape from 1983, in saffron silk-faille, included in the retrospective Vreeland staged at the Metropolitan Museum of Art the same year. It was the first dedicated to the work of a single living designer. Vreeland wore Saint Laurent to the gala opening. Not this cape, but perhaps she would have done. She would certainly have approved of it. After all, it was Vreeland herself who said so memorably Exaggeration is my only reality.