The late Diana Vreeland, the visionary editor who transformed Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue, is being celebrated this week in an event appropriately featuring San Francisco’s own favorite fashionista, philanthropist Joy Venturini Bianchi.
“For me, fashion is more of a spiritual philosophy, and I think it was true for Vreeland, too,” says Bianchi, who appears at the Castro Theatre on Wednesday for a special screening of the 2012 documentary “Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel.”
Bianchi will interview director Lisa Immordino Vreeland, granddaughter-in-law of the editor, onstage after the film.
Bianchi, in her early 70s, is famous for her collection of oversized glasses, her two charity vintage clothing boutiques — Helpers Bazaar and Helpers House of Couture — and is well-known on the red-carpet circuit. Her spry, vivacious personality comes through not only in her smile but through her clothes, which are bright, sculptural and adventurous.
“Fashion celebrates the gift of your true, authentic self,” Bianchi says. “It brings joy not only to you but to others. You have a canvas, our bodies, where we can daily showcase color through our skin, lips and fingernails. Clothing and color uplift the spirit. Every day of our lives color is offered to us; sometimes we choose to see it, sometimes we don’t. A day we choose not to see it is a sad day.”
Bianchi cites Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Nan Kempner, Babe Paley, Marisa Berenson, Dodie Rosenkrans and Vreeland as style influences. Balenciaga, Givenchy, Norman Norell and Bill Blass are favorite designers from years past, and she is frequently seen in Ralph Rucci, whom she calls the “Balenciaga of today.”
Vreeland — who discovered Twiggy, was a style adviser to Jackie O. and spotted early trends such as bikinis and miniskirts — is undergoing a belated renaissance. Along with the film, the new biography “Empress of Fashion: A Life of Diana Vreeland” hit bookstores in December.
“The film is a tribute to a life well-lived,” says Bianchi, who will pay homage by wearing a “surprise” ensemble inspired by Vreeland’s famous, vermilion-themed “Garden of Hell” room designed by Billy Baldwin.
“In my day, fashion was about celebration,” Bianchi says. “When there was an event — holy communions, bar mitzvahs, marriages, parties — you bought the outfit to celebrate the occasion. Now we have reverted to anything goes, any time of day, anywhere. It’s important for us to have celebratory experiences and things to look forward to, so that we can honor the occasion by dressing.”
Diana Vreeland: The Eye Has to Travel
With Joy Venturini Bianchi and Lisa Immordino Vreeland