Friday, March 22, 2013

DESIGNER PROFILE: Diane von Furstenberg

By Guest Contributor

“I didn't know what I wanted to do, but I always knew the woman I wanted to be.” - Diane von Furstenberg

Diane von Furstenberg (Photo courtesy of Zimbio)

Owning a 1970`s Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress is akin to possessing a static moment taken directly from the disco era. The DvF knitted frock was inspired by the end of a romance, when von Furstenberg designed the garment to demonstrate the strength and independence of the modern woman. The stifling marriage between the designer and Prince Eduard Egon von Furstenberg threatened to turn Diane into a financially dependent socialite, giving her a life that was contrary to her history as an economics major who had gone against the societal grain by beginning a career in the investment industry. In opposition to her marital position as an heiress, she began a career as a designer in 1970. It was only after the divorce that the dress was designed, becoming an instant hit that led to 25,000 sales every week. The renowned Park Avenue and Studio 54 sets embraced the design, turning it into a cult item that eventually appeared on the cover of Time magazine. The design epitomized the Seventies meme by encapsulating New York`s feminism, sexual freedom and individual autonomy.

Wrap dress, 1975–76, Diane Von Furstenberg (American, born Brussels, 1946); Green-and-white
dotted cotton/rayon blend jersey (Photo courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art)

It took three decades for von Furstenberg to build the powerhouse brand she owns today and the wrap dress continued to hold onto its popularity for the entire 30-year period. During the late Seventies, her social life extended to include icons such as Andy Warhol and Warren Beatty. Her apprenticeship with Angelo Ferretti taught her how to merge her economics knowledge with her flair for fashion. A $30,000 investment was all it took to launch a fashion house that is now a multi-million dollar empire. She won the acceptance of the then editor of New York Vogue, which won her a place on the New York Fashion Week lists within only a few years of her label`s launch. By 1979, the DvF brand was generating annual revenue of $150 million.

In `94, a battle against tongue cancer brought a short hiatus from the fashion world for Diane. It was only appropriate that she make a come back by reinventing her famous wrap dress. She relaunched the frock in `97. It wasn`t long before the design was seen on red carpets throughout the world, as the starlets of the day adopted the recreated DvF style in a new era. The designer`s Belgian birth did not prevent her from being adopted by America as a national treasure. She has become known as the U.S. fashion industry`s godmother. This position was cemented when she won a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America. Her traveling exhibition, called Journey of a Dress, emphasized the style history von Furstenberg had witnessed, beginning in the Warhol era and spanning 35 years. Some attendees feared that the chronicles signaled the end of the designer`s career, but the DvF logo had yet to reach its greatest heights.

Diane von Furstenberg: Journey of a Dress (Courtesy of Pace Gallery, Beijing )

Diane von Furstenberg: Journey of a Dress (Courtesy of Pace Gallery, Beijing )

Von Furstenberg has declared that her career has entered its third phase. She had already added eyewear, homewear, accessories and jewelry to her range and had embarked on her second major romance with the French writer, Alain Elgann. She had exploited the home shopping industry, selling $1.2 million of ready to wear garments within a two-hour television segment. Despite the massive expansion of the brand, the designer clung to her original ideal to dress strong, independent women.

The DvF brand was reinvented for a new century. The house`s style was strengthened when Yvan Mispelaere became the creative director. Today`s collections continue to demonstrate a merge between sensuality and practicality. Her Eve's Apple collection for 2013 reveals a focus on independence that filters into every line. In addition, von Furstenberg has kept her foundations strong by actively participating in projects that reward contributions made to the advancement of women. She is married to Barry Diller, whom she met at 28. Her current collection has brought back the bold prints and deep necklines of the original iconic frock of the Seventies.

Diane von Furstenberg Fall/Winter 2013 (Photo by Gettty Images)

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