Diana Vreeland never minced words. The famously quotable fashion editor certainly got straight to the point with Mr. Valentino, after their first meeting in 1964. She was the new editor of American Vogue; he had opened his atelier a scant few years earlier. “Even at birth,” Ms. Vreeland wrote him, “genius always stands out. I see genius in you. Good luck.”
This month, Rizzoli publishes Diana Vreeland Memos: The Vogue Years, a compilation of more than 250 pieces of Vreeland’s personal correspondence that takes readers behind-the-scenes at Vogue. The Vreeland years were instrumental in making Vogue the landmark publication it is now, and the book provides a compelling insight into the woman and her relationships with key photographers, personalities and designers.
Mr. Valentino was a favorite, among those designers. He and Vreeland had a close friendship, with Mr. Valentino once telling Town & Country that she was his “first phone call” whenever he visited New York, and they had a profound professional respect for each other, as well. In 1982, for instance, Vreeland invited Mr. Valentino to show his fall haute couture collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where she was a special consultant to the Costume Institute. An abstract floral evening dress by Valentino that belonged to Vreeland is in the Institute’s archive now.
And Diana Vreeland did love to wear Valentino. Prior to writing that first note to Mr. Valentino, she made her support of him clear in another way: She ordered a dress from his house.