April 10, 2018
In her irresistible memoir “The Woman I Wanted To Be”, Diane von Furstenberg recounts the story of her remarkable life.
This what I knew about DVF (as her friends call her) before reading: she married a European prince at a young age, created the famous “Wrap Dress” that became a fashion icon, and lived a glamorous life as part of the jet set, frequently seen at Studio 54. She epitomized the 70’s.
What I learned from reading her book is that she is a woman of great strength, empathy, and vision. Independence, freedom, and self-reliance were touchstones for Diane's life and career.
Her mother, a survivor of Auschwitz, instilled several lessons that steered DVF in her life. "Fear is not an option." "Never, ever blame others for what befalls you”. “Trust you, and only you, to be responsible for your own life.”
Even after marrying her first husband, Prince von Furstenberg, she was determined to make her own way, to be financially independent. Her impulsive nature led her to learn about fabric working with an Italian fabric manufacturer, something she knew nothing about. Her goal was to create a dress that was “easy, sexy, elegant and affordable”. In 1974, she audaciously showed her knitted jersey wrap dress to the legendary Diana Vreeland of Vogue, who pronounced it “terrific, terrific, terrific.” Quite an endorsement!
The wrap dress became a runaway hit, selling millions. It's been inducted into the Museum of Art's Costume Institute as well as the Smithsonian. DVF was on the cover of Newsweek at 29.
That chapter alone makes a great story. But as she writes in her memoir, she faced failure when the dress became seen as “dated” and she made some unsuccessful business decisions. She endured a bout with cancer of the tongue when at 47, and wasn’t sure what to do next. As she puts it, her American Dream became a nightmare. Happily, the 90’s brought about a tremendous nostalgia for the fashion of the 70’s and so she relaunched her wrap dress in 1997, with a new array of fabrics. It was, again, a huge hit.
For someone who started her business without a business plan or even a CFO, her instincts led her to great success and a pretty fabulous life. She seems to know everyone: famous photographers, designers and top models (she was one of the first to use Jerry Hall in her runway show), politicians, business leaders, musicians, and Hollywood players. She writes about it all with humor and an awareness that she's been extremely fortunate in finding the right collaborators at the right time throughout her journey.
“The Woman I Wanted To Be” is also a testament to her commitment to the empowerment of women. She is on the board of directors of Vital Voices, a global organization whose mission is to support and connect women leaders - activists, innovators and entrepreneurs - who are making a difference at all levels of society.
Along with her involvement with Vital Voices, she established The Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation with her husband, which gives exposure and resources to women¹s causes. This year The DVF Diller-von-Furstenberg Awards ceremony will be held April 13th in New York.
Kari and Lisa are thrilled to be attending this inspiring event this year. Imagine the exhilarating energy of being in a room filled with women who are passionate and committed to the causes they believe in!
Her reflections on aging and beauty are ideas every woman can embrace, and we wholeheartedly agree with: “Confidence makes us beautiful, and it comes from accepting yourself. In my older face, I see my life. Every wrinkle, every smile line, every age spot. My life is written on my face. My face carries all my memories. Why would I erase them?”
Her dedication to savoring each day is summed up by her view that, “Joie de vivre is very much on brand at DVF.” That’s an attitude we at Kari Gran can get behind.
Or check out VitalVoices.