In her new weekly column, Emily Ramshaw, Assistant Fashion News Editor, starts a conversation inspired by the insiders and newsmakers shaping the fashion world now. Check back every Tuesday for her latest report.
Diane von Furstenberg’s story is as well-known as her name: She married a German prince, and turned her worldly women ethos into massive financial- and fashion-world success. With her signature wrap—as easy to put on as it is to take off—Furstenberg has become a de facto feminist figure, managing to create a lasting legacy for herself as both a pioneering entrepreneur and a creative spirit. Now, as the president of the CFDA, she mentors hundreds of designers while helping to grow the organization into a real industry force. Meanwhile, the DVF label has become a global-girl go-to. “I always say that most fairy tales end with the girl marrying the prince, and my fairy tale started then.”
Your mission has always been to empower women. Why?
When I was young, I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, but I knew the kind of woman I wanted to be: an independent woman—a woman who could pay her bills—and I became that…through fashion.
How? That was an accident. I was working in a factory in Italy and I got pregnant. I was moving to America…and I asked the man I was working with, “Can I make a few samples? I’m going to try to sell them in America.” We all have, at some point, a door that opens, and you either seize the opportunity or you [don’t].
Who do you admire? I am really inspired by women in general…They are not always so glamorous or known, but what amazes me is their strength and resiliency.
What designers are you excited about mentoring right now? Since I am the mother of all of them, as any mother, I cannot have any favourites or say that I do.
At your spring show, models wore Google Glasses that filmed their walk down the runway. How did that collaboration come about? I’m very good friends with Sergey [Brin, co-founder of Google] and during the summer he showed me those experimental glasses. I had invited him to the show. He called me and he said, “Well, maybe we could do something in the show.” You could actually see how it feels to be [on the runway]. A million people saw it.
I know that Michelle Obama has worn DVF. I was very, very, very flattered that for her first Christmas card as First Lady she picked a reissued wrap dress—a dress that had been created 30 years before.
After your many career successes, what’s your next goal? I’ve had three careers…I lived an American dream, so that was pretty amazing. Then I sold my company. Then I started again 14 years ago, and the point there was to show myself and the world that it hadn’t been an accident the first time around—that was kind of a “comeback kid” [moment]. And now I really have created a global brand. My [next] goal is to create something that will last after me.
Did you have a particular role model growing up? My mother. She told me, “Fear is not an option.” You just can’t afford to be afraid.