James Dolan, Marigay McKee and The Man Behind Diana Vreeland Parfums

The roster of media mavens, moguls and bold face names spotted today at Michael's.

lunch at michaels It was business as usual–it is Wednesday after all –as the media honchos (James Dolan, Jon Steinberg), talking heads (Ron Insana) and various strivers and spinmeisters made the scene to be seen at Michael’s today.

I was thrilled to be joined by Alexander Vreeland and our mutual friend Mickey Ateyeh to talk about Diana Vreeland Parfums, an extraordinary new fragrance collection inspired by Alexander’s iconic grandmother, Diana Vreeland. Long before Anna Wintour, there was Diana Vreeland, whose unparalleled career in fashion included 26 years as fashion editor of Harper’s Bazaar and nine as editor in chief of Vogue. At 70 years old, she also transformed The Costume Institute at the Metropolitan Museum of Art from a somewhat fusty, academic institution into a vitally important nexus of art and fashion.

Mickey Ateyeh, Diane Clehane and Alexander Vreeland
Mickey Ateyeh, Diane Clehane and Alexander Vreeland

“She created something at the Met which is now a standard for museums all over the world. There are a lot of caretakers [in fashion] today,” the utterly dashing and impeccably dressed Alexander told me. “My grandmother changed the game. Very few people change the landscape. She took Vogue, which at the time was more like a social magazine, like Town & Country, and made it a fashion magazine.”

I just had to ask him what his grandmother would think of the parade of circus sideshow acts masquerading as celebrities that posed and preened on the red carpet at last week’s Costume Institute Gala. “My grandmother was very adventurous and she liked people who took risks. She had no problem with vulgarity,” he said. “She loved wacko, wonderful people.”

Alexander, who previously worked in sales and communications at Ralph Lauren and Giorgio Armani (whose business in the states went from 150 million to 1.4 billion when Alexander was heading up sales), told me he was “really close” to his grandmother, who died in 1989, when he was 34. He has taken great care to stay true to her legacy since being asked to take on the role of president of her estate in 2009. When his father asked him to assume the title “he acted as if he were turning over the keys to the Ford Company,” said Alexander.

Since then, he’s published several books on his grandmother and his wife, Lisa Immordino Vreeland, directed the much-lauded documentary, The Eye Has to Travel, which examined her life and work. Alexander’s latest book, The Modern Woman, chronicles her career at Harper’s Bazaar through the indelible images she created with photographer Richard Avedon, will be published this fall by Rizzoli and fêted at a fancy soirée at Bergdorf Goodman. Alexander noted that most people associate his grandmother most closely with Vogue, even though she spent many more years at Bazaar. “[Current Bazaar editor] Glenda Bailey is really enthusiastic about the book,” said Alexander. Of acquiring the unforgettable images, Alexander charmingly joked, “I had to sell one of my children to get those photographs, I used to have four, now I have three.”

When I mentioned that many of the images she created with Avedon still resonate today (as do her signature phrases like ‘pink is the navy blue of India’), Alexander agreed. “Many of those images could run today because they still look so modern, hence the title for the new book.” He is often asked what his grandmother would think of one fashion trend or another and Alexander said his answer is always the same: “She was born in 1903 so it’s impossible to know. What is clear is that she had an unbelievable sense of her time.” Indeed.

Over the course of our two-hour lunch, Alexander spoke with great enthusiasm about all the estate’s projects, but he is most passionate about Diana Vreeland Parfums. “In developing the fragrance collections, we had two pillars: her love of words and her love of color. Her words are ageless and the colors [she loved] are wonderful.” Fresh off his first press event, held yesterday at Hayward House on the Upper East Side where he presented the seven Diana Vreeland Parfums fragrances, he shared samples of the exquisite scents with me. With names like Smashingly Brilliant, Simply Divine and Daringly Different (all favorite words of his grandmother “but not necessarily used together in the same way”), the sophisticated scents exude luxury and evoke, at least to me, images of well-dressed women sipping champagne at the Carlyle Hotel on the Upper East Side and lunching at the Peninsula in Beverly Hills. It was no surprise to learn that the fragrances are carried exclusively at Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman. Alexander’s marketing team oversees “a big presence” across all social media platforms in promoting the collection.