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September 3 2014

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The Empress Strikes Back

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Last fashion week, we got a healthy dose of the legendary Diana Vreeland with the debut of The Eye Has to Travel, the biopic made by the spitfire editor’s grand-daughter-in-law Lisa Immordino Vreeland. Today, we are reminded of the icon’s unwavering legacy yet again with the release of Amanda Mackenzie Stuart’s new book Empress of Fashion: A Life of Diana Vreeland.

A complementary companion to Vreeland’s own fantastical and often hyperbolic memoir, D.V., Stuart’s biography provides a realistic account of the editor’s life, exploring her difficult childhood, her days at Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, and her time at the Met.

“What really intrigued me about Diana Vreeland was the way she deployed the power of imagination and fairy tale to triumph over the harshness in her life,” says the author, who first stumbled upon D.V. while researching her last book. “At that time, I had only a vague picture of who she was—a terrifyingly hip old lady—raven black hair, snood, Vogue, the Met, Andy Warhol—but I wasn’t quite sure how it all fit together. As I dug deeper, I began to grasp how extraordinary she was and became really fascinated by her.”

What’s not to be fascinated by? From her jet-setting lifestyle to her outrageous photo shoots to guest appearances from Mick and Bianca Jagger, the Kennedys, and every designer under the sun, Vreeland’s life story is decidedly “editorial.”

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Vreeland book without a helping of the editor’s famed sound bites. “I think fantasists are the only realists in the world” is one of Stuart’s favorites. “If readers understand why [Vreeland] said that by the time they get to the end of the book,” says the author, “I may have succeeded in doing her justice.”

Empress of Fashion: A Life of Diana Vreeland is available now at www.barnesandnoble.com

Photo: Courtesy of Harper Collins

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Dept. of Culture