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People of Fashion – Diane Von Furstenberg

People of Fashion – Diane Von Furstenberg
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Photograph by Yu Tsai courtesy of Google Images


Diane Von Furstenberg sat down with journalist Alina Cho at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as part of their Atelier Series. The Belgian designer started off with life lessons she learned from her mother who was a holocaust survivor. Her mother had been 90 pounds when she was liberated from the camps, and it was thought unlikely that she would ever bear children so from the start Diane was a miracle baby. Her mother taught her not to be afraid of life and to go after what you want. She told her never to blame others for things that happen to us, but to learn from it. She encouraged her to be independent and to make her own way. Her father was always super loving and supportive; however, she did not grow up dreaming of being a famous designer. She did know the type of woman she hoped to someday become; a woman of substance and integrity, who was in the public eye and led an international life. Someone like Jacqueline de Ribes whose style she always admired.

Diane stated that she has lived in a man’s world but done it in a woman’s body. This dichotomy has been the inspiration for her brand. She talked about the student internship she had with a manufacturer in Italy. She would take bits of leftover jersey fabric and have the pattern makers create samples for her. She brought these samples to NYC to show to editor Diana Vreeland who was instantly taken with them. Thus began her company and a meteoric success with her patented wrap dress. Everyone started wearing her dresses including celebrities. Before long Diane found herself on the cover of Newsweek which was coincidentally the same week she went to a dinner at the White House. Everyone came over to congratulate her including President Ford. Years passed by and her brand blew up but things were derailed by too many licenses, partners who weren’t managing the money well and a huge overhead and inventory. She decided it was time to take a break from the business world.

She also discussed at length her whirlwind courtship and brief marriage to Prince Egon Von Furstenberg. Their relationship opened up a whole new world to her of jet set partying and luxurious travel. Though they were only married for two years, they shared their two children together and maintained a close friendship that lasted up until his death. In the 90s, after years of living between Paris and Bali, she decided to restart her company. She found that she had to prove herself all over again, and convince people that she wasn’t a one hit wonder. Success the second time was much harder but she has shown the design world that she is a creative presence and has something to say about how women should dress. She expounded on the three phases of her career: the early phenomenal success and how she lived the american dream. Then she was the comeback kid starting all over from scratch. Now she is in the third phase focusing on her legacy and philanthropy. She is passionate about helping the next generation of female designers and businesswomen. She is also very involved in protecting women and children from exploitation and human trafficking.

She has led a life of extremes, from being the child of a holocaust survivor to marrying an Austrian prince, to being an international celebrity and then feeling like a has been. Through it all she has landed on her own two feet with elan and poise. She truly became the woman she dreamed of being.


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