Princess, mother, designer, philanthropist, tv personality, author, dreamer. Diane von Fürstenburg is a force to be reckoned with.
Diane von Furstenburg is an internationally known icon amongst fashionistas, your average joe and everyone in between. If she’s not in you or your mother’s closet than you will absolutely find her in your aunt’s. From creating the notorious wrap dress to her founding of the Hudson River High Line to her annual DVF Awards and even writing books, she’s done it all. With a networth of $1.2 billion you wouldn’t expect her to be from a humble Jewish family in Brussels. She attended school to study economics and then moved to Paris to be in the fashion and fashion photography industry which then led her to Milan to begin making her first jersey wrap dress in 1974 which would eventually receive her a grant. From there, nothing stood in her way. Now, over 40 years later, the DVF label reaches over 70 countries and can be found in just about every high end department store. She has grown to become such an inspiration that in 2014, her reality competition show House of DVF aired and is now on its third season. The show made America fall in love with her even more, including me. Unlike some other shoes in which a big name celebrity hosts, Diane is actually on the air quite often and we get a rather intimate look into her day to day life at work. The results were astoundingly refreshing and by the end of the first season viewers were bubbling over with Diane’s incredible wisdom and charm. She shared snippets of her thoughts on what it is to be a woman and how much she believes in women and their inherent power and strength. She is a direct example of her ideal woman. She is her ideal woman. Even if you do not care for the brand, the show is worth a watch simply for the memes (see below) and great quotes.
As a fashion designer, Diane tells stories through her clothing, much like a writer which, in fact, she is. Each collection for each season has to have a story to string the looks together and create additional cohesion and depth. You aren’t just selling clothes, you are selling a look, “the DVF woman” as Diane would call it. In Beginning Theory, Peter Barry writes that “The ‘story’ is the actual sequence of events as they happen, whereas ‘plot’ is those events as they are edited, ordered, packaged, and presented in what we recognize as a narrative” (Barry 215). We see this embodied in DVF’s collections because of how a fashion show is ordered in color, style, silhouette, and the styling and makeup of the models is the presentation aspect. Barry goes onto say “the ‘plot’ is a version of the story which should not be taken literally” (Barry 215).
The same applies to DVF collections. They do not imply that the consumer should embody all of the characteristics the models have or that they should hop on a plane and go to Cannes and sunbathe for a week to be more like ‘the girl in the story’. Clothing is a way we express ourselves. Diane wants us to do that with her clothing but in order to sell it, she has to give it a strong narrative. We see this come up often in House of DVF when Diane has the girls create mood boards for upcoming collections. She asks the girls to create a strong backstory for the collection to fall back on and be elevated by. Without the story and context, the clothing is simply just clothing. Diane says, “DVF is about selling confidence” (House of DVF season 1).
“We all have a wonder woman inside of us”
Diane von Fürstenburg is absolutely a feminist, in every sense of the term. Throughout her career, Diane has been very transparent about her own femininity and identity as a woman. There are countless quotes of hers that talk about empowering women and what woman are and can do. For example, “Feel like a woman, wear a dress!”. Diane was one of the earlier known fashion designers of women’s clothing that was, in fact, a woman, skyrocketing her career in 1974. You have to be tough to take on a male dominated industry that caters to women and that is exactly what Diane did. She made a brand for women by women. They weren’t just clothes any more. They were empowering pieces made for any and all women to wear freely.
In 2010, Diane founded the DVF Awards “to recognize and support extraordinary women who are dedicated to transforming the lives of other women; women who have had the courage to fight, the power to survive, and the leadership to inspire” (DVF Awards). Each year, the DVF awards bestow $50,000 grants to five women and each of their non-profits to advance their work and success. This is one of the many examples of all that Diane does for women. On season one of House of DVF, a particular contestant rubbed Diane the wrong way and she referred to her as “the bitch of the group” (see below). She did not do this to shame the contestant but to give her a taste of reality and tell her that she doesn’t have to be cold and hard to get to where she wants to be and that nobody should ever have to do that.
To wrap this love train up, Diane von Fürsetnburg is a heroine to me in so many ways. Perhaps the most important though is all that she has been able to do for not only herself but the women of the world. Through philanthropy, her awards, her clothing, right down to her words, she is a pioneer and will continue to push women to be greater. One of my favorite things I’ve heard from Diane is that she’s “never met a woman who was not strong, simply because they don’t exist”. That attitude and outlook alone is what makes her a heroine. Add all the other stuff in and she’s unstoppable. She’d agree too.