CELEBRATING THE 40TH ANNIVERSARY OF DIANE VON FURSTENBERG’S ICONIC WRAP DRESS, THE REFINED FASHION DESIGNER HAS BECOME A GLOBAL BRAND. HERE SHE SHARES WITH READERS A GENTLE INSIGHT INTO HER RAVISHING YET NOW MORE PEACEFUL LIFE.
By Linda MarxIn House of DVF, her new docu-series for E! Entertainment Television, fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg walks behind her desk, kicks off her shoes and talks turkey with a young generation of women. In the reality TV series (10 p.m. Sundays), eight talented and ambitious fashionistas are vying for the dream job of DVF Global Brand Ambassador.
Shot at her offices in New York’s Meatpacking District, House of DVF offers viewers a prime time peek into her glamorous world of ready-to-wear fashion, handbags, shoes, scarves, small leather goods and jewelry. (Her company also offers luggage, eyewear and home furnishings.) Since the DVF brand has been a long time symbol of confidence, grace, ambition and fearlessness, it makes sense that the successful designer wants to mentor young women. “With House of DVF, I am able to open the doors of my company and show the endless possibilities young girls can find in fashion,” von Furstenberg tells reporters. And what a story this sexy, confident, jet-set businesswoman has to tell. Her design journey began with a small investment that helped her launch, in 1974, her iconic knitted jersey wrap dress—a fusion of two of her designs—and signature prints. It didn’t take long until this flattering, form-fitting dress graced the bodies of women around the world, from international denizens of Studio 54 to Park Ave. ladies who lunch.
In addition, the wrap dress continued to increase its market share. Its look helped housewives, college students and other women of all body types feel sexy, alive and free. In 1975, the designer was making 15,000 dresses a week. A year later, the amazing success of the dress landed von Furstenberg the cover of Newsweek magazine. Her own exotic presence didn’t go unnoticed during those early years, when Town & Country magazine wrote that she had “the sultriness of a biblical temptress.” For the next decade, few weeks went by without fans seeing her picture on newspaper society pages and name in the columns as she galavanted around the world with the rich and famous, such as Andy Warhol and Bianca Jagger.
Then in 1997, after a semi-hiatus, the designer relaunched an updated wrap dress to a new generation of women. It was an instant hit. U.S. First Lady Michelle Obama and actresses/ performers Jessica Alba, Jennifer Lopez, Madonna and Kate Beckinsale were seen wearing the wrap dress in modern, lighter fabrics.
In 2012, von Furstenberg was named the most powerful woman in fashion by Forbes magazine; this year, coinciding with the 40th anniversary of the wrap dress, Forbes named her 68th on the list of the world’s most powerful female entrepreneurs. Now her global distribution network is in more than 55 countries and 1500 points of sale. This includes 97 DVF owned and operated stores throughout North and South America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific. She just opened DVF in Miami’s Aventura Mall.
Now, in my 60s, I know I have less time ahead and want to enjoy as much as possible.
In her new memoir, The Woman I Wanted To Be, published October 28 by Simon & Schuster, the designer who was born Diane Simone Michelle Halfin in Brussels to a Romanian father and Greek Holocaust survivor mother, writes about style, aging and inner confidence. She talked about starting her adult life at 22 when she married Prince Egon von Furstenberg (1969-1972), quickly having two children, Alexander and Tatiana, and seeing financial success by age 30. “My 30s were my best years,” she wrote. “I was still young but felt grown up, lived an adventurous life, raised my children and ran a business, The 40s were harder. My children went off to boarding school and college, I sold my business. I wasn’t sure who I was anymore. I started to question my own style.”
However, life improved dramatically when she turned 50. The designer went back to work and repositioned her brand. She married again, this time to her longtime boyfriend Barry Diller, the influential media mogul and philanthropist. She also became a grandmother. “I embraced my age and my life, it was the beginning of the age of fulfillment, which continues today. Now, in my 60s, I know I have less time ahead and want to enjoy as much as possible.”
One of her passions is giving back. She runs the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation, offering grants to various organizations. Among areas of interest are the arts, human rights, health, environment and community building, including giving generously to the High Line, an awesome and unusual public park in New York City. She also created the DVF Awards which are presented each year to women who display leadership, strength and courage in their commitment to female causes. Her Vital Voices is a nongovernmental organization that supports female leaders and entrepreneurs around the world.
With such generous charity projects and a creative career that grows bigger each year, von Furstenberg leads a fascinating and fulfilling life, both professionally and personally.
As the designer steps back to enjoy her children and four grandchildren, she insists, “Children are my greatest creation.”
This dynamo truly has it all.