Diane von Fürstenberg picks up on the primary ring. We’re talking by cellphone, not on Zoom, so I begin by asking her the place she is in the meanwhile. “Oh, it’s very sophisticated,” she says. A drawn-out, gravelly sigh crackles down the road. “I’m in a really contemplative place. I’m virtually 77, and I’ve had a giant life. A folkloric life. A fantastic journey. And now it’s time to have a look at the stability sheet of that life.”
I used to be truly questioning about her geographical whereabouts, not her philosophical ones, however the reply is pure von Fürstenberg. She has all the time been one for the massive image, for the grand gesture, for feeling all of the feels. Even the wrap costume that made her fame and her fortune – an icon which turns 50 subsequent yr – was solely ever a way to an finish, a means for von Fürstenberg to get the life she needed. As a bit of woman, she says, she didn’t know what she needed to do when she grew up, however she did know what sort of girl she needed to be. And that was a girl in cost. “I didn’t know the specifics of what that meant, however I completely knew the sensation. And I grew to become the girl I needed to be, due to that costume. I created the costume, however actually the costume created me.”
Von Fürstenberg could be very a lot in cost. She can not assist however take the reins of any scenario, or any dialog, which makes her virtually uninterviewable, however fabulously entertaining to hearken to. Finally, I discover out that she is speaking to me from her residence in Manhattan, a glittering glass penthouse with an unlimited leopard-print carpet and views over the Excessive Line. I’m unhappy to not get her on digital camera, as a result of she is superb to take a look at: Joan Collins-esque panache with a Bohemian edge. I noticed her within the flesh not way back, and essentially the most photographed cheekbones of the Seventies, as per the New York Occasions, are nonetheless in full impact. “It’s great to grow old,” she says. “I don’t perceive why individuals don’t prefer it. Anyway, I all the time preferred to look a bit of bit destroyed, you recognize?”
She has been packing a suitcase to take together with her to Thanksgiving weekend together with her household at Cloudwalk, the Connecticut property she purchased herself for her twenty seventh birthday, when the cheques began rolling in. From there, she’s going to journey to Oxfordshire for Voices, a convention run by the Enterprise of Trend web site, the place she can be in dialog with the Pakistani-Canadian film-maker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, the primary girl and the primary individual of color to direct a Star Wars movie (her as but untitled film is due for launch in 2026), who not too long ago completed a documentary about von Fürstenberg’s life.
In an trade the place most tendencies are fortunate to outlive for six months, how does one costume final half a century? “That costume is a survivor as a result of it provides a girl the physique language of confidence,” von Fürstenberg says. “The tips of dressmaking are about how a girl feels.” Von Fürstenberg by no means studied design, however discovered the craft of cloth, color and print within the Italian factories of garment maker Angelo Ferretti in her early 20s. Someday, she took a visit to the US to go to her new boyfriend, Prince Egon von Fürstenberg, who she had met at a nightclub in Geneva, and found New York. “After I obtained again to the manufacturing unit, all I might take into consideration was easy methods to get again to America. So I made some samples and I went again to New York with a suitcase filled with little attire. They had been attractive, however correct. Somebody stated to me, ‘It’s a costume you may get a person in, and his mom doesn’t thoughts.’”
The key, von Fürstenberg says, is the material. “I keep in mind Christian Lacroix as soon as stated to me, ‘Ladies make garments, males make costume.’ Male designers don’t like jersey as a result of it’s not significantly lovely to take a look at, however whenever you put on it, you perceive the worth of it, of the way it feels and the way it works on the physique.” Von Fürstenberg, like Donna Karan, Coco Chanel and Sonia Rykiel, is aware of that jersey, unprepossessing on the hanger, grows beloved within the wardrobe.
Survival is on the coronary heart of Belgium-born von Fürstenberg’s story. Her mom, Liliane Halfin, was taken to Auschwitz on a cattle practice at 21 through the second World Warfare, and later moved to Ravensbrück. When liberation got here 13 months later, “she was a bag of bones in a discipline of ashes”. Hospitalised at a close-by US base, medical doctors didn’t count on her to reside, not to mention go on to have youngsters. However, reunited together with her fiance, she married, and gave delivery to von Fürstenberg inside 18 months.
“I used to be born so near being liberated that I take into account myself a survivor, too,” von Fürstenberg says. “My delivery was a triumph of affection over distress. That’s my flag. My mom used to name me her torch of freedom, and he or she needed me to have a giant life.” The legacy feels like so much for a bit of woman to deal with. Her mom would bless her mattress each evening: grateful for the sheets, the blanket, the pillow and the heat, after sleeping on a picket plank shared with rats within the focus camps. When von Fürstenberg was afraid of the darkish, her mom locked her within the closet. “She taught me that worry is just not an choice.”
Within the febrile local weather of social media, von Fürstenberg has confronted criticism for expressing sorrow and sympathy for the lack of harmless lives on each side of the Israel-Hamas warfare. There are those that really feel that something lower than full-blooded assist for Israel constitutes a betrayal of her household historical past. “I’m completely devastated by what is going on on this planet,” she says. “I don’t know what to say. I search for the sunshine, I consider in peace. As a survivor, I’ve the precise to consider in miracles.”
We discuss a bit of extra in regards to the horrors of present occasions, about compassion and humanity and the sense of hopelessness shared by so many, however later, a couple of minutes after we end the interview, my cellphone rings once more and it’s von Fürstenberg, involved about how she phrased her ideas. “I don’t wish to communicate out, as a result of there may be nothing I can say and I don’t take phrases frivolously,” she says. Her personal narrative is a fairy-tale – the miracle child of a Holocaust survivor, who grew up lovely and robust and married a Swiss prince – and this bleak second isn’t any time for fairytales. She is misplaced for phrases.
On another subject, although, she is something however. Packing all the time sharpens her thoughts, she says. “I’ve had so lots of my finest concepts once I was packing. I’ve been packing suitcases all my life, I’m all the time travelling, and if you know the way to pack, you know the way to reside.” Questions roll off her like water from a duck’s again as she steers her personal conversational course. If I interject she says, “sure, sure, I’m attending to that,” after which by no means does. It’s exhausting to really feel aggrieved, although, as a result of there may be by no means a boring sentence. Within the midst of her paean to the wrap costume which carried her to stardom, she mentions that she has by no means actually worn wrap attire that a lot herself. “I by no means felt like I had the waist,” von Fürstenberg says, “so I choose a shirtdress.” Later, enthusing about her forthcoming journey to the UK, she reminisces about her teenage years at boarding college in Oxford. “Oxford was the place I found nature,” she remembers, “and likewise the place I misplaced my virginity. I’ve so many good recollections.” I try a follow-up query to the virginity story, however too late. She has moved on.
5 a long time in a notoriously fickle trade has been a rollercoaster experience. “Each 20 years, the younger individuals uncover me once more. It’s occurred twice already,” von Fürstenberg says wryly. The 2000s had been growth time, the 2010s noticed overexpansion, and when Covid hit in 2020, the DVF (Diane von Fürstenberg) model got here near chapter. “We had grown very massive, and I had a whole bunch of shops, and immediately I used to be shedding cash. I might have offered the model for a fortune to somebody who would have prostituted it. However I didn’t wish to do this.”
As a substitute, she closed all however one retailer within the US and streamlined the enterprise, bolstering funds with a strategic accomplice in Hong Kong, however preserving majority possession within the household. A pared-down operation, with out messy licensing offers to dilute the model, is a part of what the designer calls “a 3rd rebirth” for the label. Talita von Fürstenberg, who at 24 is the eldest of her 5 grandchildren, is now co-chair of the corporate, tasked with bringing the DVF model to era Z.
Earlier this yr the model launched a resale platform known as ReWrap. Costs vary from about £40 (€46) to about £300. (A brand new DVF wrap costume retails for nearer to £500.) “One of the best ways for a costume to be sustainable is for it to reside for 50 years,” says von Fürstenberg. “You will discover a costume in a classic retailer, and it may need lived three lives already, and it’ll nonetheless be in good well being, with no holes.” She’s proper, by the way in which: jersey is hard-wearing, and with no fastenings to interrupt and no elaborations to decay, these attire are just about indestructible. (My very own leopard-print DVF wrap costume continues to be going sturdy after 22 years.)
The Swiss prince didn’t final, nevertheless, though he did give her two youngsters and her final title, and so they remained on pleasant phrases – he died in 2004. Since 2001, she has been married to the billionaire media mogul Barry Diller. In addition to New York and Connecticut, they’ve properties in Beverly Hills – the place they not too long ago threw an engagement get together for his or her pals Jeff Bezos and Lauren Sánchez attended by Oprah Winfrey and Barbra Streisand. In addition they have “a pleasant boat” (Eos, a 92m yacht, from which Diane likes to swim for 2 hours a day) and a spot in Venice, the place von Fürstenberg hopes to spend extra time, when her work schedule permits.
“Now that I’m within the winter of my life, all of the items of the puzzle begin to make sense,” von Fürstenberg says. “My youngsters name me the Oracle. I’ve discovered many issues alongside the way in which, and it’s time to share that knowledge.” Throughout the pandemic, she wrote Personal It: The Secret to Life, which is a form of manifesto of von Fürstenberg-isms within the type of a dictionary. (Pattern extract: “Ego is a constructive outlook on oneself that may simply develop into an insufferable flaw when abused. See narcissism.”) “I’m happy with that little guide, as a result of it’s so helpful,” she says. “Do you might have youngsters? A lady? What’s her title? That’s a ravishing title. How outdated is she? I’ll ship you a duplicate for her …”
Amorous affairs with Warren Beatty, Omar Sharif and Richard Gere; nights at Studio 54 with Andy Warhol and fellow designer Halston, surviving most cancers. Von Fürstenberg has lived fairly the life, and he or she has saved diaries all through. After I ask if she plans to publish them, she says no. “They’re in French,” she provides, as if this closes the subject. Then, she continues: “A diary is a communication with your self. That’s an important relationship you’ll have.” I hope she alters her thoughts; her memoirs can be a gripping learn. – Guardian
Diane von Fürstenberg is talking on the Enterprise of Trend Voices convention for artistic and enterprise trade leaders, which runs from November 28-Thirtieth