When Diane von Furstenberg told me to stand up and raise my arms above my waist, I was slightly embarrassed, but completely enthralled at the same time. She wanted to teach me the proper way to tie her famous wrap dress. So I, of course, did exactly as the fashion icon ordered. “The Amelia looks really good on you,” she said happily and explained the reason I was styled in the dress.
“I designed it to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the wrap dress,” Diane said proudly, as she ripped the sealed pockets of the frock open. “Has Shireen been gifted this dress?” Diane inquisitively asked her assistant. “No, not yet,” her assistant chirped. “Well then, this is my gift to you,” Diane said matter-of-factly as she reached for my waist. Overwhelmed by her gesture, I mumbled how honored I was and watched as she untied the bow that I had carefully cinched before our interview.
“All you have to do is tie this one under and this one over. Voila! See, you don’t need a bow. It will stay put, you’ll see.” I nodded vehemently, as she easily corrected something I had obviously been doing wrong for the majority of my adult fashion life. My face flushed with redness; it wasn’t because I was embarrassed, either.
It was because Diane von Furstenberg, herself, the woman, the designer, the legend, the person who had created this incredibly stylish, beyond beautiful dress had not only generously gifted it to me, but had unpretentiously proceeded to show me the proper way to tie it. Despite having a career jam-packed with celebrity encounters, it was an incredible moment, one that I will never forget. It felt different; special, even.
Perhaps it was the affectionate fawning she showered over me, the sincerity of it or the fact that we both shared a deep love and passion for fashion. Whatever it was, I held back the tears as the moment unfolded. In her presence, I felt undeniably “Wrapped in Beauty.” Later that day, when I got back to the Deco Drive offices, I tried explaining the encounter to my blog editor, Matthew Auerbach, who I endearingly call Matty.
I didn’t expect him to understand, but he surprised me by replying: “I totally get it; it’s like a Yankees fan getting a batting lesson from Derek Jeter.” I shook my head in total agreement and replied: “Yes, that’s exactly it.” Matty then proceeded to tell me if I didn’t write about the exchange between Diane and myself I’d have to be insane. Actually, I think he said nuts and I definitely don’t want him thinking I’m nuts.
There are a lot of reasons why DVF, the woman is so special. The magnitude of her individuality and what makes her so appealing is perhaps best explained in her new book “The Woman I Wanted To Be,” a candid and heartfelt memoir about her relationship with her mother (who was a survivor of Auschwitz,) her many lovers and her incredible rise to fame as a fashion designer.
I sat down with Diane recently at her pop-up store in the Aventura Mall, a beautiful space partially dedicated to her Los Angeles exhibit, “Journey of a Dress” celebrating the 40th anniversary of her famous wrap dress. We talked about her new book, her new reality show and in short, just what an astonishing year it’s been for her.
Shireen Sandoval: Tell me about your Aventura DVF location.
Diane von Furstenberg: This is a pop-up, we are moving to a permanent store soon (another area in the mall,) but it wasn’t ready and because this year is the 40th anniversary of the wrap dress, we wanted to do this shop like a mini exhibition and a store.
SS: It’s a nice experience, especially for people that couldn’t go to Los Angeles to see “Journey of a Dress.”
DVF: Exactly; and it also helps people understand the story of the brand.
SS: Let’s talk about your reality show, “The House of DVF.” It’s a little different than the typical reality show.
DVF: Young girls love reality shows, what I don’t like is that often girls can be objectified and the message isn’t very good. So, I wanted to do this show and bring eight girls into the company and teach them all the different facets of the company, but also teach them empowering messages. It’s glamorous, informative and fun. It’s on the E! Network, on Sunday nights.
SS: How has social media impacted your business and fashion?
DVF: Social media is everywhere. It’s the digital revolution. Wherever you are you can share the experience that you’re living with the world. Earlier today, the mayor of Miami gave me the keys to the city and I did a beautiful Instagram and it’s out there. It’s not just my business, it impacts every aspect of life.
SS: The South Florida woman loves to be sexy, loves color and loves to make a statement. What article from your collection (in stores now) should the Miami woman have in her closet?
DVF: The Miami woman is very much a DVF woman. She’s sexy and she wants her sex appeal to be effortless. She’s on the go and travels, it’s the city, but the beach and it’s very Latin. It’s very much the type of woman I understand and I think instead of one thing, there are many different things that would work. I think this type of woman will always find something at DVF.
SS: After 40 years of designing the wrap dress, there has to be one that you favor.
DVF: The original issue of course, but I like the one I designed for the 40th anniversary, the one you’re wearing called the Amelia, which is a knit material at the top and woven silk at the bottom and the skirt puffs out.
SS: I like the way it makes my derriere look.
SS: How many wrap dresses are in your closet?
DVF: Awww, well my closet is the archives. Actually, at some point I didn’t have any and then I kept buying them back. I have thousands of them.
SS: I read your new book (“The Woman I Wanted To Be”) and it’s a very intimate, detailed and candid look at your life. I was actually shocked by your honesty.
DVF: At first, I wanted to write about my mother; she passed away 14 years ago and I realized how much of an impact she had on me. I wanted to tell her story, but as I was telling her story, I realized how much I was a vengeance of her own life. If you’re going to write about yourself, then you have to be completely honest and I’ve never done therapy, but this book was really like therapy.
SS: When you were writing the book, was it easier to open up to your fans than, say, your family and friends?
DVF: I told the truth to the point that I was like, “is this still glamorous?” I’m actually a private person, but I wrote completely open. You reading the book is fine because we are acquaintances, but the people who are close to me, I am more embarrassed. I’m so happy with the way I’ve written it, though. If you have a voice and you’re really honest, I think it resonates with people. I think that every woman will relate to at least something in the book and it will be inspiring and give her strength. Also, writing it is one thing, but discussing it is another.
SS: You’ve always been so affable and well liked-which doesn’t always go hand-in-hand in fashion. Is this something that’s innate in you, or perhaps (from reading the book and learning about your mother) you inherited your good nature from her?
DVF: My mother was extremely positive, but she was tough. I guess I’m tough, too, but that’s another thing you should take from success. If you’re actually successful you can show your vulnerability and I think that’s important.
SS: We are coming to the end of 2014. What kind of year has it been for you?
DVF: It’s been a huge year. It started with the anniversary of the wrap dress, I wrote the memoir, we have the “Journey of a Dress” book of the exhibition. I did the television show, it’s been very…well, I look a little tired.
SS: What’s next for DVF, the woman and the brand?
DVF: For the woman, well, I’m in the autumn of my life, my children are aging, my grandchildren are growing. Really, it’s about enjoying it, reflecting more and sharing.
I would also like to carve into the DNA of my brand to really make sure it reflects my values and that in a DVF shop women can find solutions and confidence. Really, for me, it’s about helping other women, empowering women has become my mission. I do it through my work by making them sexy, I do it through mentoring and philanthropy.
No matter what season of life Diane is in, she’s proven year after year, that the journey can always be new and exciting. Her grace, fortitude and DVF empire have effortlessly established a strong hold in fashion history. No question about it, Diane von Furstenberg is “Wrapped in Beauty” and that’s why her work will always be one of my favorite things.
Blog wardrobe provided by www.dvf.com
styled by Diane von Furstenberg
Facebook: DVF – Diane von Furstenberg
photography by tod p/t4twophotography
Hair & Make-up by Odette Hernandez
Editor: Matthew Auerbach