Diana Vreeland/www.shutterstock.com

I loathe narcissism, but I approve of vanity

Diana Vreeland was the grande dame of fashion. For over 40 years, she was held in high regard – and with some trepidation– by couturiers and designers as they unveiled their latest collections in the hope they’d grace Vreeland’s glossy magazine pages.

For many years, she was the New York fashion editor of Harpers Bazaar, where her working relationship with photographer Avedon inspired the Audrey Hepburn film, Funny Face.

In her signature black clothes, accentuated by bold statement jewellery, Vreeland, who later became editor-in-chief of Vogue, had an eye for the new, the extraordinary and the beautiful. But while elegance, she decreed, was innate, you didn’t have to be born beautiful to be “wildly attractive.”

Always physically fit, it was no good, she insisted, to have beautiful things – whether a designer handbag or a perfect complexion – unless you worked to maintain and make the most of what you had. “Unshined shoes are the end of civilisation,” she once declared.

More than one million visitors viewed the annual couture exhibitions she staged at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.