She is the woman she has wanted to be and a beacon of light to many others. She recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of her wrap dress with an exhibition in Los Angeles, California. Diane von Furstenberg is the fairy godmother of fashion, and her story reads like a fairytale: the European princess who has lived the American dream.
Focused and solution–oriented, Von Furstenberg has used the success of her brand to raise global awareness of women and women’s issues. She is involved with organizations such as Vital Voices, a group that recognizes and assists women who are seeking to make a difference by means of community efforts around the world. She also created the Diller-Von Furstenberg Family Foundation whose DVF Award is presented annually at the United Nations. Her goal is to empower women, and she uses the fruits of her success to change the lives of many. Direct, unfiltered, unabashedly proud, she is willing to empower others to be the same.
azureazure.com had the opportunity to sit down for an intimate chat with DVF, who remains a commanding cultural phenomenon after more than 40 years.
ELYSZE HELD [E.H.] / What is the biggest risk you have ever taken?
DIANE VON FURSTENBERG [D.V.F.] / I don’t look at anything as a risk but as an opportunity!
E.H. / What is the strongest point you stress when speaking about empowering women?
D.V.F. / I always tell women that the most important relationship is the one you have with yourself…you are always going to be with yourself, so why not enjoy the company? If you learn to love yourself, after that, everything is much easier. You have to be hard on yourself, and then be nice to yourself. This is not easy to do, but if you can master it, everything else will be better.
E.H. / In your book, you often refer to lecturing/talking to young women. What do you think of the upcoming generation? Will they have it tougher than they think?
D.V.F. / Young women, like generations before them, will have it tough, sure, but all women are strong. I have never met a woman who is not strong. But too often they do not know their strength, and it takes a tragedy to bring it out. I always tell young women not to wait for the tragedy, to find their own strength and use it.
E.H./ What’s the most difficult decision you’ve made in the last few years, and how did you come to that decision?
D.V.F. / It was very difficult to decide that I should take back the creative reins of my company. I write about it in my new book, but my friend Francois-Marie Banier called from Paris, and he said to me, ‘assume-toi‘, a French expression that means own yourself. He told me to trust my talent and move forward. It was very interesting because I am always telling other women to be true to themselves, and I realized that I was not doing that for myself. And now I feel very good about that decision. The company is very much on track, and I can see myself in the clothes again. We are at a place that reflects the best of the past, but is still very much about the present. That is always where I like to be.
E.H./ What do you like to do for fun? What’s the last book you read?
D.V.F. / For fun, I like to hike, wherever I am. I hike for inspiration, for exercise, to be close to nature and to find clarity. Clarity is so important. Right now, I am reading the biography of my friend Anjelica Huston. I recently finished the latest book about Chanel and one about Schiaparelli by Meryle Seacrest. I love to read about the lives of powerful women.
E.H./ Has being solution-oriented contributed to your success?
D.V.F. / Absolutely. All the clothes I design are solution-oriented. What made the wrap dress so amazing is that it gave women a way to go to work and still feel like a woman. It gave them a dress they could move in, travel in, feel sexy and sophisticated. It still does all of those things. In our Pre-Fall 2015 Collection, there is this amazing parka with two layers that zip together and are both reversible…so it is four coats in one…And it can be warmer, or it can be lightweight as necessary. Our lace dresses are so popular because the lace stretches, is comfortable, and it is also the most flattering thing. A party dress that is effortless and easy to wear, that is a solution to a problem that every woman has at some point. I want all of my clothes to be a woman’s best friend.
She is the woman she wanted to be. But in this fairytale, she rescued herself and continues to share her mission with the world. ■