Sunday, August 19, 2012


By Eva Fydrych
Courtesy of WSJ

Photo courtesy of DVF

Diane von Furstenberg, a Belgian-American fashion designer best known for her iconic wrap dress, first made waves with a simple yet radical directive in 1972: "Feel like a woman. Wear a dress." 

Today, the DVF empire includes sportswear, beauty, and fragrance lines, and the flagship store is a cornerstone of the Meatpacking District’s fashion quarter, functioning as a boutique, design studio, and pied-à-terre for the CFDA council president. Celebrities wearing DVF include Uma Thurman, Jennifer Lopez, Mary Tyler Moore, Betty Ford, Gloria Steinem, and Gwyneth Paltrow.

At a time when nearly every luxury brand is targeting China, Diane von Furstenberg says in an interview for the Wall Street Journal, she is taking a more personal approach to expansion.

Photo courtesy of Luxury Insider

WSJ: Five years ago, you were just firing up your engine inside China. Since then, it seems like every major fashion label is going full speed ahead inside China. Do you think this next decade is the China decade? 

Diane von Furstenberg: I think it will be more than a decade. It will probably be the China century. It’s amazing. I always was fascinated with China, because I was born in Europe, and for us, China had this fascination and mystery. The first time I came here was in 1989. They were on bicycles, and the speed of the growth has been incredible. 

WSJ: You’ve opened stores in Beijing, Shanghai and Chengdu. What’s your vision for your business in China?

Diane: Asia is clearly a big effort. We are here to stay and grow. I didn’t want to come as the colonizer - I wanted to come and understand the culture and make friends, which is what I did. Last year we had an exhibition in Beijing where I incorporated Chinese artists, so I hope to think I do that a little bit differently. But I love being here, and really truly, if I were younger, I would live here.

Diane Von Furstenberg with Chinese model Du Juan at the opening of the DVF Shanghai
Plaza store in 2007. (Photo courtesy of China Daily)

WSJ: Who is the Chinese consumer today?

Diane: The Chinese consumer is everybody. It’s very simple. When I was a little girl, and I didn’t eat my dinner, my mother would say “Think of all the Chinese who have nothing to eat.” My children’s generation is the Chinese making everything, and now my grandchildren’s generation is the Chinese buying everything.

WSJ: Are you designing specifically for the Chinese market?

Diane: You would be surprised: Whether she is Russian or Brazilian or French or American, my consumer is the same. But it is great to design for Chinese women, because they have great bodies. They are slim and have tiny waists, so it’s nice.

WSJ: What does the Chinese woman symbolize to you? 

Diane: What I like about women is always strength, but Chinese women are even stronger. It’s like strong women on steroids. I also realize they are fragile. All women are the same really: They are strong, but they are afraid of their own strength.

Diane Von Furstenberg's “Red Ball” in Shanghai last year (Photo courtesy of Red Luxury)

WSJ: You are expanding in China. Is that the focal point for expansion world-wide?

Diane: The focal point for expansion right now is to focus on accessories. That is really the big part of it. I always joke that I have three careers. In my early 20s, it was the American dream. Then I started again 12 years ago, and it was “comeback kid,” and now it is big business. I want my clothes, my handbags and my shoes to be women’s best friends. My mission is really to empower women - it is also my mission in mentoring and philanthropy.

WSJ: I was thinking about the wrap dress this morning, and I was trying to think of another piece of clothing that transcends generations. Are you surprised that it’s lasted so long?

Diane: I never thought this would have such a life. It was amazing the first time around, because I lived this American dream. The same dress I wore, Mrs. Obama wore for her first Christmas card as the First Lady. Ingrid Betancourt, who was prisoner in the jungle for seven years - the first dress she bought was the wrap dress. I mean, those things you can’t buy. It just happens.

Diane von Furstenberg, Jessica Alba, Du Juan and Zhang Ziyi at the 2011 Red Ball in Shanghai.

WSJ: You talk a lot about empowering women. What do you mean by that?

Diane: I think all women are strong, but sometimes a father, a brother, a religion, a lifestyle, or sometimes on their own—you don’t want to show your strength. And then, sometimes, a tragedy happens, and miraculously the strength of a woman always comes out. So let it come out before tragedies, you know?

I think what I love in women is their strength, their real strength that is from within. What I think I sell with my clothes is confidence, so hopefully all my dresses, my accessories, are friends to the women. When you open the closet, and your eyes are swollen, and you don’t like the way you look, you go to your friends.

WSJ: You have now had this fashion empire for decades. What’s your advice to women who are trying to build something of their own?

The best trick is never to blame everything or everyone else. Whatever happens, you’ve got to deal with it. You process it and go on.

Diane Von Furstenberg: Journey of a Dress, Pace Beijing, 2011

WSJ: Who has been your best role model?

Diane: My mother was my role model, because she was an example of strength. Before I was born, she was a prisoner of war in Germany. She went to the death camps and survived. She weighed 49 pounds, so she wasn’t supposed to survive. She always told me that God made her survive so that she could give me life. So my birth was a miracle, and therefore I carry her flag.

WSJ: Would you ever consider retiring?

Diane: I think I will be DVF till the end. I don’t want to retire from life. I am too engaged, I am too curious, too interested, and I still think I can make an impact. And in this part of my life, I want to make an impact.

Photo courtesy of DVF


One of the premier names in American fashion, Diane von Furstenberg was founded in 1972 by the designer. Renowned for its iconic wrap dress and signature prints, DVF has grown into the global luxury lifestyle brand it is today. The company, headquartered in New York City, has expanded to four full collections and accessories. The range of accessories extends to shoes, handbags, small leather goods, scarves, eyewear, fine jewelry, watches and luggage. In 2011, DVF debuted a home collection encompassing tabletop, bedding and rugs as well as a signature fragrance, DIANE. DVF is now sold in over 70 countries worldwide, and has 45 freestanding shops. 
Source: DVF

DVF Fall / Winter 2012-13

Photos courtesy of Million Looks

Photos courtesy of Million Looks

"Be proud to be a woman!" - Diane von Furstenberg

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