On Saturday, October 26, at her Highland Park Village boutique, Diane von Furstenberg hosted a private shopping event with a portion of the proceeds benefitting TWO x TWO for AIDS and Art. Decked out in my favorite DVF jumper and armed with a fierce admiration for the designer, I sat down with von Furstenberg herself for a chat.
Diane von Furstenberg – the woman and the DVF brand – requires no introduction. As a young designer (she was in her 20’s at the time) she rose to fashion fame and became a household name in the 1970’s with the introduction of her iconic Wrap Dress. The style caught on like wildfire with Hollywood starlets and female executives alike. At the time, von Furstenberg herself was married to a German prince. She was hot.
But, also part of her well-known tale, DVF suffered a dramatic downfall in the early 1990’s. A slight hiatus followed. Then, in 1997, the ever-determined face of female independence and strength re-launched her brand for one of fashion’s most impressive revivals. Almost immediately, her sultry, unfussy dress again filled the closets of confident women around the world. Undeterred by hardship, von Furstenberg revamped her entire brand, expanding offerings to include accessories, home products, and capsule collections, thus successfully securing her position in the fashion big leagues.
In 2005, the Council of Fashion Designers of America honored von Furstenberg with a Lifetime Achievement Award. The next year, she became the CFDA’s President, a position she holds to this day. In 2009, First Lady Michelle Obama wore the DVF signature Chain Link print Wrap Dress for the official White House Christmas card. Also that year, a retrospective exhibition curated by André Leon Talley entitled “Diane von Furstenberg: Journey of a Dress” opened in Russia.
The designer drew a beautiful crowd of local fashion elite, bloggers, and designers for her Dallas in-store appearance. The former princess swirled through the room with ease, greeting her guests and signing purchased designs. During a brief speech to the crowd she exclaimed that, out of everywhere in America she’s traveled, Dallas has the most beautiful women. Later, I connected with DFW Style Daily gal pal, Cynthia Smoot, and although it was clearly a busy morning, our accommodating hostess took a few minutes to sit down with us both. Below, learn what the legendary designer had to say about the future of Fashion Week, personal success, and Mexican food. Photo memories captured at the event follow.
Diane von Furstenberg: “You know, I love this store. It’s so nice because it’s big and in the open. It does well for me. It’s fun!”
Heather Lettieri: “I love it too. Thank you for having us all out this morning.”
DVF: “My pleasure.”
HL: “I was at Fashion Week again this past month. It’s always an experience. As President of the CFDA, what’s the one thing you wish to change about NYFW?”
DVF: “What I really want to do is to try to make sense with the calendar and schedule. That’s my main thing. And then of course, I want to house it in a better place. And we will in a few years. You know, we have just announced that we are going to have the Culture Shed. We’re trying to make it exciting.”
Author’s note: Culture Shed is a 170,000 square foot arts institution that will be built in Hudson Yards.
HL: “A more exciting Fashion Week?”
DVF: “Well, yeah. We’ve already made it exciting, if you think about all the new designers involved. It is really exciting. But, it needs to be a little bit more organized into something even better.”
HL: “Fair enough.”
Cynthia Smoot: “Is there something you like to do when you’re in town?”
DVF: [Giggles] “Here? I never have any time to go anywhere.”
CS: “You need to give yourself a few hours next time.”
DVF: “Hmmm… Mexican. I love a good Mexican restaurant.”
HL: “Well, Cynthia and I could just take you over to Mi Cocina right now. Forget all this!”
DVF: [Laughing] “Maybe next time.”
HL: “So, with all your early success and triumphs, was there ever a time you feared it would all end? Like in the ‘90s when your brand was in such a slump, did you think you’d make such an incredible comeback?”
DVF: “I’m writing a book about the brand that will be out next year, where I talk about all this. You know, I’ve had two eras of my company. The first one, all I wanted was to be independent. I was in my mid-twenties. I was a German princess, and I lived this incredible American dream. And then I sold the company, and 14 years ago I started it again. This time it was about, you know, proving to the world that it wasn’t an accident the first time. And also proving it to myself.”
Author’s note: DVF’s upcoming book is tentatively titled ‘The Woman I Wanted to Be.’
HL: “That had to be difficult.”
DVF: “It was challenging, but I started going again and it grew so organically. But now it’s the third time. Now it’s like, you know what? I’ve really created something. My dress is 40 years old. That’s never been done. But, all of a sudden it hit me. I need to be able to build the brand more, and go to the next level. I want to leave it as something my granddaughter will be able to continue.”
HL: “Are you the woman you always wanted to be?”
DVF: “I am the woman I wanted to be.” [Pauses] “Well, I mean not every day. Okay, there are a lot of things I wish maybe I didn’t do, but yes, I am.”
As Cynthia and I thank the designer for her time, I ask if she wouldn’t mind signing my program from her NYFW Spring 2014 show. She obliges, and I tell her the story of how my friend and I made a new friend in New York who helped sneak us into her show. With mock surprise, she asked, “You mean you weren’t invited?”
I laughed and told her about the experience and how magical it was for us. She seemed to take it in for a second, then smiled and went back to the program, adding, “Always go for it.”
I think I always will.
The legendary Wrap Dress is celebrating its 40th anniversary right now. Diane von Furstenberg is collecting personal stories and photos from women worldwide about their experiences while they were wearing the dress. From first dates to job promotions to special memories, you can submit your own story now at DVFWrapStory.com.
Photos, credit Mei-Chun Jau. Interview photos courtesy of Cynthia Smoot.