A Catch Up With Diane von Furstenberg

VIVA's Fashion Ed Britt Singleton speaks fashion and life with the grand dame
ByBrittany SingletonMonday , 15 September 2014
A Catch Up With Diane von Furstenberg
Diane von Furstenberg

Describe for us the essence and the spirit of the Diane Von Furstenberg brand? 
Effortless, sexy, on the go! It is all about colour, print and joie de vivre!

How much of the brand’s spirit is a direct reflection of you, and how much is it a reflection of the woman who wears DVF? 
Really, it is both…when I first started out, I wanted to make simple little dresses that I could wear anywhere and now, it is more and more about the women who wear DVF because my dresses are all about the woman. They are inspired by women and designed to make a woman feel like the best version of herself.

Diane on the cover of Newsweek & Interview magazines

What was it that first influenced you to become a fashion designer?
Well, I didn’t always know that I wanted to be a fashion designer, but I knew the kind of woman that I wanted to be. I knew that I wanted to be independent, to have a career of my own and to pay my own bills. My first job in fashion was for a photographer in Paris and then later I was working as an apprentice in a factory in Italy learning all about print and colour. I became engaged to a handsome prince and then suddenly I was pregnant and moving to America! I knew that I wanted something of my own, so I asked my boss at the factory if I could make a few dresses to take with me and sell in America. That is how I got started.

Do you have a personal style mantra that you abide by? 
Go for it!

For you, what are the most important principles of designing fashion for the modern woman? 
Effortlessness…something can be very beautiful and unique but if you can’t move in it, what is the point? I love glamour, but there has to be a practical element to it.  
I believe you have to have the yin and the yang and I love an unexpected twist.

Diane appears in the first DVF print advertisement in 1972, photographed by Roger Prigent

Your history is so entwined with pop culture and cultural heroes. How has your relationship with icons such as Andy Warhol affected your outlook on life and design? 
I have been very lucky in my life to meet so many colourful people…and Andy was certainly one of those. He was such an observer and he really understood the time that he was in. I have known so many artists and still do, but I think the most important thing they represent is to be true to yourself…you have to know who you are and be true to that.

When you first introduced the wrap dress, it became an icon of freedom in fashion for women, of versatility and ease. What do you think the wrap dress stands for today?
The same - you know, it is just amazing how it has stood the test of time. We are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the wrap dress this year and we kicked off with an exhibition in Los Angeles. Seeing them all together from the very first dress to styles designed this year for the exhibition, it is the first time I have really understood the power of that dress. We have collected wrap stories from women all over the world and it has been amazing to see the impact that little dress has had, not only on my life but on the lives of other women. I love to hear their stories.

Your business today is such a huge success. Tell us about a struggle that you’ve faced in the growth of your brand and what it took to overcome it. 
In the early eighties, I sold my business and moved to Paris. I chopped off all of my hair - I was figuring out who I was without my brand. But I missed fashion. And I missed New York, and I realized that my business is my form of expression, and without that, I just felt blocked and unable to communicate. But in the nineties, I started to notice that all of the chic young models had discovered the wrap dress and were buying them in vintage shops. I thought, why not start again? I wanted to prove that my success hadn’t been a mistake the first time around, but of course there were moments I was terrified I would be treated as a has been, but my mother always taught me that fear is not an option, so I just went for it. You have to be willing to take risks and you have to be willing to fail. Your failures are your best teachers.

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