It’s hard to understate Belgian-born, New York-based fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg’s very busy year. Just earlier this year from January to April 2014 in Los Angeles, the designer launched The Journey of a Dress exhibition to mark the 40th anniversary of her iconic wrap dress.
This month, she will soon release an accompanying book on the exhibition, along with her autobiography The Woman I Wanted to Be on October 28. Her new television show House Of DVF will premiere in Singapore on November 4, 2014, barely a week after her memoirs hit the store; all on top of her regular Spring Summer and Autumn Winter showings for her eponymous brand Diane von Furstenberg (DVF) at New York Fashion Week.
Diane von Furstenberg in her office in New York. Image: E!
“For the last five years I’ve been working on a memoir, which was supposed to be launched at the beginning of the year but was delayed,” says the designer during a phone interview with us earlier this month. “The TV show happened afterwards; it’s a complete coincidence that everything is happening in the same week.”
This grande dame of fashion still does everything at her own pace and is even ahead of the curve when it comes to tech-led fashion collaborations.
The sixty seven year-old fashion maven avidly Instagrams — “when it says ‘love diane’ [in the Instagram captions], it’s always me” — while being the first fashion designer to design for digitally-enhanced eyewear Google Glass for the tech giant. Her DVF Made for Glass line retails exclusively on Net-A-Porter and the Google store; her fashion models also wore Google Glass at her Spring Summer 2013 show, long before Cara Delevingne took to Instagramming the “first video from the catwalk”.
“I feel like I have been doing social media before social media,” quips the designer, who has been the creative force and face of her namesake label ever since its inception. “I always say that I’ve been lucky to be old enough to dance at Studio 54 but young enough to be part of the digital revolution.”
Here, she shares more quotable quips about her new television show and more about how working at her fashion label can be like “a sitcom”.
Her proudest achievement so far
It’s hard to avoid quizzing the fashion designer on the now iconic wrap dress but she’s come to accept it as part of her biggest life achievement.
Fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg. Image: E!
“For years I took it for granted but after the [wrap dress] exhibition, I no longer take it for granted, I honour it,” shares Von Furstenberg. “I saw the body of my work in one building. There were 225 wrap dresses: Long ones, short ones, ones that were 40 years old and 10 years old. That was when I saw the flexibility and relevance of that dress. That really impressed me and I was really proud.”
Anne Hathaway may not be born if not for the wrap dress
“[Anne Hathaway’s mum] just told me that about that in front of Anne,” laughs the designer, as she remembers the encounter with the actress’ mum at an Academy Awards luncheon. “It’s a funny story. I collect lots of [these stories]. Many people got the job [because of the wrap dress], their husbands; lots of things.”
“The wrap dress has changed my life and it has paid for everything from my children’s education to houses,” added the designer. “It made me famous, independent and it transformed [the lives of] other people because it gave a lot of women the confidence.”
House of DVF is her search for that ‘mini me’
The fashion legend admitted that she was initially adverse to the idea of having her own show, despite her previous reality TV appearances on fashion-themed shows like Project Runway and The Fashion Fund.
“What I didn’t like about [reality TV] shows is that they objectify the women,” explains the designer. “The b***h is the one who wins; it’s not like that at all [on House of DVF].”
She changed her mind when she’d decided to look for a new brand ambassador and someone in her team suggested turning that search into a TV show.
Diane von Furstenberg with the eight girls in House of DVF. Image: E!
So in the House of DVF, “eight girls learn about every department from merchandising, design, retail, events, communication to PR,” explains Diane von Furstenberg. “We look at them, evaluate them and one will become the brand ambassador.” The girls will work on everything from styling the lookbooks, meeting journalists and had even co-design a wrap dress.
“For this job you have to first understand the brand and like it,” advises the designer. “You have to know how to work under stress, you have to be able to travel, you have to be able to talk to people, be able to present yourself [well], understand the brand and train people, to represent the brand. Like a mini me.”
Why working in DVF (and possibly the show too!) is ‘like a sitcom’
“We laugh a lot,” says the fashion designer. “It’s a serious company but everybody expresses their personality. I do that, I love people to be them. I encourage people to be themselves, to be true to themselves and yet be true to themselves.”
Von Furstenberg would rather call her show a “documentary series, non-scripted” to share “all the things that go on in a fashion business.” Yet the show is far from lacking on the drama quotient; at one point, one of the girls ended up in a hospital.
The eight contestants in House of DVF. Image: E!
“The show producers were afraid that they had to make things happen,” remembers the designer. “The extraordinary thing is that we didn’t have to. You will see a lot of surprises … Everything about the fashion industry might surprise. It’s like surfing a tsunami.”
DVF wisdom: Become your biggest critic
The designer has more quotable words of wisdom to share: “The most important advice I can give anybody is that the most important relationship in life is the one you have with yourself. If you have that, then every other relationship is a plus and not a must.”
She goes on to share that this “relationship” can be worked on “by being true to yourself, by seeing all those things that you can do. You have to be demanding on yourself. Nobody criticises myself more than I do; it’s good, it’s productive [to think that].”
Why the cheongsam is DVF’s must-have
The fashion icon picks out the 501 denim jeans from Levi’s as a fashion essential that has “managed to be timeless” like her classic wrap dress. Her next wardrobe must-have: The qi pao dress, also known as the cheongsam. “This year I made a qipao wrap dress and it’s very successful, beautiful,” says Von Furstenberg.
Diane von Furstenberg in Singapore soon?
The TV show is expected to end its run come January 2015; after which, the selected DVF brand ambassador will be primed to plan for an upcoming show in Singapore, shares Diane von Furstenberg. Will that mean that the fashion icon herself will be here? We can’t wait to find out!
Catch Diane von Furstenberg on House Of DVF from November 4, 2014 on every Tuesday at 10pm on E! (StarHub TV Channel 441). Shop for DVF in Singapore at ION Orchard, #01-08A and Takashimaya Department Store, Level 2.