The late Diana Vreeland is one of fashion’s most powerful icons and her grandson, Alexander, is intent on keeping her spirit alive through a collection of bespoke fragrances he launched four years ago.
Vreeland, who died at the age of 85 in 1989, was obsessed with style and transfixed by fragrance. She wrote an advice column for Bazaar titled Why Don’t You, edited the magazine over a 26-year reign until 1962 and then worked for American Vogue. She also knew how to give a good quote, and endless books have been released celebrating her pearls of wisdom.
The flamboyant icon lived in a Manhattan apartment and bonded with her grandson who moved to New York four years before her passing.
“I was the only member of the family in New York with her for the last years of her life,” Alexander Vreeland, 63, tells The New Daily.
He launched Diana Vreeland Parfums in 2014 to honour his grandmother’s legacy.
He has since expanded the brand into the Australian, Asian and the Middle East markets where bespoke scents are in huge demand. He will release a new fragrance in October.
The businessman saw an opportunity to start a fragrance company after seeing the response to his wife’s documentary about his grandmother titled The Eye Has To Travel in 2011.
“We had a very close, intimate and powerful relationship. I have very clear memories of being with her talking about getting married and having children. I had just been made head of communications for Ralph Lauren at the time. I was experiencing a whole lot of different things from home to work life,” he says.
“Being able to sit and discuss my life with her definitely helped me channel her via the fragrances. I had a full life with her that gave me the foundations for this collection.”
Vreeland didn’t anticipate a career renaissance in the perfume industry, but the desire to fly the flag for his grandmother reaffirmed his decision.
Prior to arriving in New York and working for Ralph Lauren, he went to Canberra to do a leadership course on self-awareness in 1975. He fell in love with Australia, moved to Sydney and remained for nine years.
“I never wanted to work in fashion or with my family and I have managed to do both,” he laughs.
“What has become clear to me is that my grandmother is one of the very few heroes that we have in fashion and luxury goods. I was speaking with the editor of British Vogue last week and he said most editors get forgotten about once they depart.
“Diana Vreeland is a name that will live on.”
Diana on grooming
“My grandmother was always a big believer in taking care when it came to grooming. She told me one’s toenails needed to be clipped and maintained even in winter, regardless if people saw your feet or not. She used to have her shoes and soles shined and wouldn’t think of going out unless everything looked right,” Vreeland says.
“At the height of women’s liberation in the 1960s, she did something that was very controversial. While she believed women had a right to do everything like work and start a family, she also said women needed to maintain a standard at home.
“She said you had to get everything right, it was a huge burden and a pressure but she was a believer that women who had high positions could find a way to have children and maintain a relationship with their husband while keeping the home looking fabulous too.
Famous quote: “Unshined shoes are the end of civilisation.”
Diana on fashion
“One of the lessons I learned from my grandmother is to never compromise oneself. She was someone who pursued her passions and wouldn’t be talked down to,” Vreeland says.
“She was a believer in luxury and loved beautiful things. She loved fashion to be well made and took good care of her personal possessions.”
Famous quote: “Style: All who have it share one thing – originality.”
Diana on interiors
“Diana had a famous apartment in New York and wanted her living room to look like a garden, a garden in hell. The walls were red, the furniture and floors were red. It was an entirely red room. She was very certain about her choices and loved colour,” Vreeland says.
“Fragrance was also part of her DNA. When she took on her job as a Special Consultant to the Costume Institute at the Metropolitan of Modern Art she made sure no exhibit was showing without a scent of her choice pumping through the airconditioning system. She told me an exhibition is only half told if there is no fragrance in the air.”