I once spotted Diana d’Arenberg walking – correction, strutting – down Pedder Street in a chic black pantsuit fitted to perfection, with a top hat and an elegant, swinging cane. Along with her signature bold lip and blonde tresses tucked under her jaunty topper, she made heads turn left, right and centre. Très chic.
“I’d describe my style as silver-screen glamour,” she says, “with a bit of rock ’n’ roll goth.”
A multi-hyphenate, d’Arenberg is married to Jay Parmanand, is a writer (mostly about the arts) who sings in a band, a fashionista, a former model and muse, a global gallivanter and a blogger. No, not of the “OMG, I love this sponsored bag” ilk. Her perspicacious site, Post-ism, features musings on art and artists, existential cultural angst, and food for thought on matters new and old.
Her proclivity for vintage pieces – be it fashion, photography or art – isn’t a fad, it’s an informed decision at every point. “A vintage piece has a story, and it feels more special than the mass-produced, latest ‘It’-whatever that everyone else is wearing. I scour flea markets and vintage shops for design pieces. I’ve found some incredible vintage kimonos in Tokyo and Berlin shops. I also shop online – 1stdibs, Vestiaire, What Goes Around Comes Around, Shrimpton Couture.”
When d’Arenberg dons a power suit there’s good reason (in this case, recreating that Helmut Newton shot for YSL). “What women choose to wear has always been politicised. And sexualised. We’re damned if we do (wear skirts, a short dress, pants, a bikini, headscarf, a suit) and damned if we don’t. Hillary was the first woman to wear a pantsuit in her official portrait and it was definitely a political statement. But what’s not sexy about a powerful and intelligent “nasty” woman?” she says, quoting Trump with an eye-roll. “Although I have to say, the orange and aubergine suits did her no favours.
“But to say that a pantsuit or ‘masculine’ attire is empowering for women would be to suggest that ‘female’ attire – like skirts and dresses – is disempowering. That women need to masquerade as men to feel strong and empowered. The woman maketh the clothes.”