Veruschka, Richard Avedon & Polly Mellen .
In 1966 Vogue did something extraordinary: a team was to Japan in the middle of winter to shoot perhaps the most epic fashion story of all time. The editorial was pre- PETA and it was dedicated to the beauty of furs.
This editorial is often credited to Diana Vreeland, who was the magazine’s Editor-in-Chief at the time, but actually the editor on this story was Polly Mellen. It was one of her first assignments for Vogue and she set about on the five-week trip to Japan with supermodel Veruschka and legendary photographer Richard Avedon.
Fifteen trunks of clothes are hauled into the snow-covered mountains. Hairstylist Ara Gallant creates a wig eight feet long for Veruschka; Vreeland’s response when she sees the wig is, “I want 20 feet!”
“The Great Fur Caravan. A Fashion Adventure Starring the Girl in the Fabulous Furs Photographed for Vogue in the Strange Secret Snow Country of Japan…” took up a whopping 26 pages in the October 1966 issue. The Girl character was first introduced in the January 1963 issue as an idealized version of Diane Vreeland, sort of a dreamer, an adventurer. In Japan, the Girl takes a first class train to the middle of nowhere, where she explores the glorious snow mountains in her “fabulous” furs, and eventually falls in love with a gentle Japanese giant. It’s not like the story needed to make a lot of sense. It was dreamy and fantastical, and the type of travel story that Vreeland liked to entertain Vogue readers with. “The eye has to travel,” she famously said. Years later, Avedon remarked, “it’s without content. It’s without any meaning in it. It’s just this exquisite creature. Diana imagined her walking through the snows of Japan.”
The story is rumoured to have cost $1 million dollars back in the day — that would be equal to $7 million today. But that’s how legends are made.