Overlooking Aleppo when the ravishing city was still there, 2010
DIANNE B STORE
Dianne always liked to do things her own way and this characteristic has manifested it itself in her life, her homes, her career and in her gardens. Her fashion era spanned the 70s, 80s, inched into the 90s and was filled with firsts. This image is the 5000 square foot concrete Comme des Garcons store opened in 1983. It was her third store: the first Dianne B on Madison Avenue in 1976, the second Dianne B in a primitive SoHo in 1982 — when SoHo was nothing but artists’ lofts and galleries — and the overambitious Dianne B Men + Women in 1986. Her stores each caused quite a stir. Art + Fashion did not mix as freely then as it does today. Comme des Garcons and Rei Kawakubo being recognized at The Met with a one-woman exhibit happened 34 years later.
WITH BILL CUNNINGHAM
Bill Cunningham epitomized fashion in New York and was always there for Dianne: when she wafted in and out of Henri Bendel on 57th Street (her first big New York City job), in front of her Dianne B. stores on Saturdays, as well as at the Benefits she put her hand in The Hamptons. First at Robert Wilson’s Watermill Center, where she served on the board for 20 years during the exciting building of the Center. In the 21st Century — LongHouse Reserve which has become her cause celebre. This photo was taken at the LongHouse Summer Gala in 2012.
PORTRAIT BY ROBERT MAPPLETHORPE
Aside from building architecturally arresting spaces and championing a world of then new designers — like Jean Paul Gaultier, Jean Charles de Castelbajac, Rei Kawakubo and most strikingly, Issey Miyake — Dianne didn’t really see the difference between art and life. She commissioned artists like Robert Mapplethorpe, David Wojnarowicz, Peter Hujar and Cindy Sherman to represent her ‘brand’, both in the collections she designed for her then-husband’s firm, Cygne Design and in her stores. This portrait by Robert Mapplethorpe is Dianne in a coat by Castelbajac that appeared in Andy Warhol's Interview.
Her attitude hasn’t changed much as her life progressed. For the past several years she has been President of the Board of LongHouse Reserve, an exhilarating 16 acre arts compound and educational foundation dreamed up by Jack Lenor Larsen to exemplify living with art in all its forms. It is here that she exercises much of her creative energy in helping to fashion the enduring legacy of an incredibly ingenious man, Jack Lenor Larsen. LongHouse will eventually become a public museum and park.
On December 23, 2020, the esteemed Jack Lenor Larsen closed down the brilliant arc of his long and well-lived life. He was quite jolly at his last, albeit small and masked, 93rd birthday.
As President of the Trustees of his legacy, LongHouse Reserve, for the past dozen years; I never realized how important the word trust actually was. It’s the bestowing of faith and a huge responsibility. How fortunate that we, me and my fellow Trustees, have been to receive the gift of carrying on his philosophies and sense of beauty through LongHouse.
Which has never looked more beautiful and is alive with his spirit.
Sunday was always his sacrosanct private day to swim naked or do whatever he pleased; but now Sunday is our most popular open day.
Do go to our refreshed site and reserve your spot www.longhouse.org.
Dianne with her family, Skye and Lys Marigold and their dogs, Flora Pandora and Magnolia. This picture belongs in the middle because it is the core of her life. That they are in St. Luke’s Episcopal Church in East Hampton is ultra-appropriate as they are all committed to each other as well as to the Church (Lys has served as its Senior Warden and Dianne is currently on the Vestry). Their collective passion is travel. Dianne’s family is rounded out by too-far-away treasured stepchildren, Wendy in Melbourne, Australia and Marc & Charles in San Francisco and Sonoma. Update: beautiful black Flora Pandora grew old and there Is now a very lively rescue mutt named Vita (for Dianne’s heroine and role model, Vita Sackville-West).
LOVER OF SHAKESPEARE
Living in East Hampton is rich with opportunity. Dianne engages in the life of the Village in many ways. Having never really abandoned her first love of acting (she was a Theatre major in college), she was thrilled when the Round Table Theatre Company was formed in 2012. She has appeared as The First Witch in a fantastic production of Macbeth at the LTV Studios and a few years ago, was delighted to be Gertrude in an intense Hamlet that was presented at Guild Hall. Dianne the 2015 production, with Tristan Vaughan as Hamlet.
Another blessed aspect of life is the divine location in which she lives and gardens. Her partner Lys Marigold chose this precious spot in the early 90's, but Dianne did not arrive until 2004. The property itself is absolutely prolific — once farmland with very rich dirt — boasting majestic trees that include a breathtaking magnolia, now the centerpiece of the moss garden. The setting is wedged exactly between the East Hampton Nature Trail and a meticulously kept private apple orchard, as well as in breathing distance of the ocean and only several strides from East Hampton Village Main Street. They love the world they live in, and in 2017, marched to keep it that way. Lys serves as Chair of the powerful East Hampton Village Zoning Board, while Dianne is a member of the Architectural Review Board of the Town of East Hampton, which incorporates Montauk, Springs, Wainscott etc.
THE EAST HAMPTON NATURE TRAIL
Occupying 24 acres of prime Village land, some of the most valuable in the nation, is the unmanicured habitat known as The Nature Trail. Home to a multitude of Mallards and Wood Ducks, Geese and neighborhood Swans — bringing children to feed the ducks is an East Hampton tradition passed down through generations. This unlikely oasis is preserved by the Village, the Garden Club and the LVIS, which is the remarkable Ladies Village Improvement Society that has kept East Hampton beautiful since 1895. Dianne relishes her role as the LVIS Nature Trail Committee Chair.
Dianne's passion for gardening began more than thirty years ago when she was faced with “a house in the country” on an acre that had hardly ever been touched. What started as a weedy, woody tangle was gradually and passionately turned into a garden-tour-worthy shady exotic acre. The details of her starting with virtually no garden knowledge were documented in DIRT: The Lowdown on Growing a Garden with Style, an inimitable gardening book/memoir that has become a sort-of gardening cult classic. Dianne loves to write and was for years the highly-irreverent, though immensely practical Garden Pundit for Hamptons Cottages and Gardens Magazine. She now writes and photographs for this blog, DIRTIER, thinking it the basis for her next book. Her unique artistic gardening vision, as well as her dramatic decorating style, has been editorialized countless times.
Her Davids Lane garden is often open for local organizations and other interested gardeners plus every year is a part of the Garden Conservancy Open Days program.