STRANGER THINGS

THOSE BOLD ENOUGH TO BUCK THE RULES ARE THE ONES WHO DE­FINE OUR AS­PI­RA­TIONS. THE SPRING COL­LEC­TIONS PAY WELL-DE­SERVED HOMAGE TO EC­CENTRICS PAST.

Town & Country (Philippines) - - T & C - By Lisa Vree­land

Those bold enough to buck the rules are the ones who de­fine our as­pi­ra­tions, in style and be­yond. spring’s col­lec­tions pay wellde­served homage to ec­centrics past.

In the past sev­eral years I have man­aged to make a full-time job out of ex­am­in­ing the sin­gu­lar vi­sions and par­tic­u­lar­i­ties of some of the world’s most fas­ci­nat­ing ec­centrics. First on my list was Diana Vree­land, my hus­band’s grand­mother, who be­came the sub­ject of my first film and book,

Diana Vree­land: The Eye Has to Travel. Diana was the ul­ti­mate ec­cen­tric: rule-bend­ing and in­di­vid­u­al­is­tic in both aes­thet­ics and men­tal­ity. Though I rel­ish wear­ing some of her old cash­mere sweaters—and am de­lighted to see her con­tin­u­ally ref­er­enced on run­ways—what cap­ti­vates me most about her are the fab­u­lous (if some­times slightly du­bi­ous) sto­ries she loved to tell.

Diana claimed, for in­stance, that when she was a small child she was one of the last peo­ple to see the Mona Lisa be­fore it was stolen from the Lou­vre, in 1911. She also liked to say that she was present dur­ing the Night of the Long Knives in 1934, the evening Hitler purged the Nazi party of any­one he felt was dis­loyal to him. She may or may not have been every­thing she pro­fessed to be, but she was never, ever bor­ing.

Nei­ther was Peggy Guggen­heim, an­other glo­ri­ous demon­stra­tion that ec­cen­tric­ity is a mat­ter of both style and sub­stance. In re­search­ing my sec­ond film, Peggy Guggen­heim: Art Ad­dict, I learned just how much in­de­pen­dence and brav­ery it took for Guggen­heim to step away from her very tra­di­tional roots and move at the age of 20 to Paris, where she was fa­mously pho­tographed by Man Ray in Poiret dresses, be­came part of the mi­lieu of the Sur­re­al­ist artists, and ul­ti­mately set out on the path to be­com­ing a world fa­mous pa­tron. In her later years she amassed a col­lec­tion of art­works that has made his­tory, and she did it all in mas­sive but­ter­fly­shaped sun­glasses, sur­rounded by an army of Lhasa Ap­sos.

Most re­cently I com­pleted work on Love, Ce­cil, a book and film about the pho­tog­ra­pher and stage de­signer Ce­cil Beaton, a man who wor­shipped cre­ativ­ity, who saw it as the ne plus ul­tra of hu­man­ity. But he won’t be my last sub­ject—my list of beloved ec­centrics is long. There is Lee Miller, the model, muse, and lover of Man Ray. Her style still in­spires peo­ple to­day, and sto­ries about her are leg­endary: In 1945 she was a war cor­re­spon­dent, and while she was trav­el­ing through war-torn Europe with the al­lied forces, the unit she was with found Hitler’s apart­ment in Mu­nich. Crav­ing a bath, she sup­pos­edly jumped into the Führer’s per­sonal tub and had a lon­gover­due soak. Then there was the vis­ually dra­matic Luisa Casati, who was known to take her pet ocelot for walks while wear­ing only her fur coat and a face fully made up, in­clud­ing her sig­na­ture kohl-lid­ded eyes. Other fa­vorites in­clude the stat­uesque Edith Sitwell, who stood six feet tall in bro­cade and tur­bans and jew­els and was also a lit­er­ary icon un­afraid to spar with her male crit­ics. And the pro­lific de­signer Elsa Schi­a­par­elli, who com­bined fash­ion and art to star­tling ef­fect and whose epony­mous cou­ture house was re­cently res­ur­rected, amid great an­tic­i­pa­tion.

Marie-Laure de Noailles was the epi­cen­ter of the avant-garde in early-20th-cen­tury Paris, a bawdy and dar­ing muse and a pa­tron to the most im­por­tant artists. Anna Pi­aggi, whom I had the plea­sure of know­ing, used her ex­u­ber­ant idio­syn­cra­sies—in­clud­ing blue hair and col­or­ful makeup—to draw peo­ple into the of­ten for­bid­ding world of fash­ion. And of course there is Patti Smith, who man­ages to be a poet, a singer, a vis­ual artist, and a writer, all while main­tain­ing her sta­tus as a punk icon.

While the very point of all of th­ese peo­ple is that there is no one else like any of them, they clearly share cer­tain things—namely, pas­sion and strength of char­ac­ter. They took risks, they made choices. They em­braced the ten­sion be­tween high and low cul­ture, ex­cess and deca­dence, min­i­mal­ism and max­i­mal­ism. Some were great beau­ties, and oth­ers were

jolies laides, but all lived life on their own terms, even when that meant flout­ing so­ci­ety’s edicts and ex­pec­ta­tions.

And it is be­cause of them and their ilk that our bound­aries, be­hav­ioral as well as aes­thetic, con­tinue to ex­pand, as does our def­i­ni­tion of beauty. They have paved the way for a broader ac­cep­tance, and it is our re­spon­si­bil­ity and priv­i­lege to carry forth the spirit that such ec­centrics be­stow upon us. As Beaton said, “Be dar­ing, be dif­fer­ent, be im­prac­ti­cal, be any­thing that will as­sert in­tegrity of pur­pose and imag­i­na­tive vi­sion against the play-it-safers, the crea­tures of the com­mon­place, the slaves of the or­di­nary.”

“i al­ways did what i wanted and never cared what any­one thought. women’s lib? i was a lib­er­ated woman long be­fore there was a name for it.” —Peggy Guggen­heim

Peggy Guggen­heim

Frida Kahlo

Diana Vree­land

Char­lotte Gains­bourg

Anna Pi­aggi

nancy Cu­nard

Iris Apfel

Luisa Casati

Edith Sitwell

Patti Smith

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