By David Syrek
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Interesting Q&A with Iconic designer Diane Von Furstenberg. Aside from creating one of the most iconic dresses of the 20th century, Von Furstenberg attributes at least some of her success to the relationships she has with women.
Diane von Furstenberg is one of the rare designers who are truly household names, Most often associated with her iconic wrap dress, she’s been dressing women in her instantly recognizable style for over 40 years.
I caught up with the legendary designer at Neiman Marcus, while she was in town to meet clients, show her fall collection and have a chat with Neiman Marcus Fashion Director Ken Downing.
Q: As chairman of the board of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, you’re on a serious mission to improve New York Fashion Week. You’ve even sent out personal letters encouraging designers to cast more diverse runway shows. How is that working out?
A: I do that every year, and I also remind the designers about the health of the girls because fashion has a responsibility. Beauty is heath, and it’s important that we respect diversity. That’s very important to me.
Q: The fashion industry is trying to make fashion shows more relevant to the consumer by making pieces available for immediate purchase. How do you see the “see-now, buy-now” experiments playing out?
A: I kind of brought up that whole issue. With the digital revolution and the influencers, there was a lot of enormous visibility for clothes that people could only get six months later. That’s why I brought up the issue. I felt that, especially small designers, don’t necessarily have to do these big shows and get all of this visibility too early.
Right now, everybody’s surfing the tsunami, and we’ll have to see where it all goes.
Q: You’ve been quoted as saying that your mission is to give women more confidence. Is that what you see fashion’s role as?
A: Well it’s my role in fashion, for sure.
Q: Your 2014 museum show celebrated the 40th anniversary of the wrap dress, and the exhibit mixed items from your personal and professional life. Has it always been that way for you?
A: Yes, and it’s not always necessarily that good, but it’s always been that way for me.
I loved that exhibition because it was dedicated only to the wrap dress and how amazing that dress was. People think I made the dress. I think the dress made me.
Q: Aside from creating one of the most iconic dresses of the 20th century, what’s the key to your success?
A: What I think is important in the success that I’ve had is my personal relationship with women, whether I know them or not. They trust me.
The reason I have that is that I’m always very honest, and people relate to that. Especially when they see you as somebody successful, it’s very important to show your vulnerabilities, your failures and your insecurities.
When I started out, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew what kind of woman I wanted to be, an independent woman. And I became an independent woman because of a dress. And because of that dress, I then made other women become independent. Selling my confidence to others to be confident. And that has created a chain of love. My thing is that I create the tools for a woman at different moments of her life.
Q: What’s the wildest journey that dress has taken you on?
A: It was exhilarating when I was a 25-year-old girl, and I would count the dresses on Fifth Avenue. Then I got used to it. Oh, that dress has so many stories. My favorite is Anne Hathaway, she introduced me to her mother one day, and her mother said, “You know, she doesn’t know this, but I seduced her father in the dress. As a matter of fact, I conceived her in it.”
Q: What advice would you give to young designers?
A: To really try to figure out very clearly what they stand for and focus on that.
Q: With the spring 2017 collection, Jonathan Saunders has taken the helm as chief creative officer. Was there a long search to find someone you were comfortable enough with to hand over the reins?
A: Yes, yes. I think he’s the right person for many reasons, but mostly because he has such an incredible sense of mixing fabrics and colors. He’s really a true artist in that, and that’s what I was about. I think he’ll bring a strong, fresh approach to my brand.
Q: What are you looking forward to doing with all of your free time?
A: Well, I’m going to focus on my voice. And spend a lot of time to use my voice for people who have no voice.
Q: I read that you had your beloved dog Shannon cloned. How is that working out?
A: I wasn’t a great fan of that. My husband did that, but as a result, we have beautiful dogs.