Diane von Furstenberg is known for spreading the love, doling out advice everywhere, like her compelling books, The Woman I Wanted to Be, and even in this very magazine answering reader questions month after month. So what a joy it was to hear her speak her musings in person at last night’s Live from the NYPL event at the New York Public Library, where she sat down with Chanel biographer Rhonda Garelick to swap stories about life, working in fashion, and measuring up to the famous Coco Chanel.
“I came to this country and I lived an American dream,” she said to the packed midtown crowd. “I became the woman I wanted to be.” Their discussion lasted a gripping 76 minutes. Below, a few of her most quotable highlights.
She believes strongly in body language.
“One of the things that is most important to me and characteristic of my brand is body language. Body language is everything. I like to give women confidence so [a look] is either wraps, skirt, or loose … When I design [something], it has to be effortless, sexy, on the go; it has to be functional. It has to be solution-driven, it has to be. I always think of the woman. I mean that’s it. I just want to give tools to women so that they can be themselves. I love it when I see women who wear things competently different.”
She collects stories about how women wear her famous wrap dress.
“We collect wrap stories, like ‘I found my husband,’ ‘I got my first job.’ Everybody has a wrap story, everybody. And some are very unusual. For example, when I met the actress Anne Hathaway, she introduced me to her mother and her mother said, ‘Well I am going to tell you something that even my daughter doesn’t know.’ She said, ‘I seduced her father in a wrap dress, and as a matter of fact I may have conceived her in it!’ The funny thing is, Anne said to her mother ‘Is that the one with the tulips?’ So she has the dress!”
She doesn’t believe she’s an artist.
“I make clothes. I never ever thought I was an artist, I never even thought I was making a fashion statement in a sense. My role in fashion is [to be] the friend in the closet. You wake up in the morning and your eyes are swollen, you have your period—not me anymore, but anyway— you don't feel well and you go for your friend and you feel secure. You wrap it on, and over the day you feel better and better. [A dress] is really a tool to look better to feel better. It’s for confidence. It has to be effortless, sexy, and on-the-go.”
She wants you to feel you are never too old to feel stylish.
“The great thing about aging is that you are aging. I mean, 18 means that you are living. Yes, I am aging, every single day. And, yes I am happy about that. Aging means that you have already lived. You have a past and you like your past, then aging is fine. It all goes to the point to the young girls here that you have to live fully every day and you have to do what you want to do. If you are accountable for who you are every day then when you look back you will like your past.”
She wants you to own your own style.
“The most important thing is that you have your own style. The earlier you have your own style, it’s you. That doesn't mean it’s about style—that means it is about you and what you like about yourself and what you don’t like about yourself. You have ways to show it. You have good legs, show them. That really is what determines your style and your personality. If you have your style, then you age into your style. I see pictures of me when I was 13 and I always had a gold bracelet. It was always my style. I haven’t changed.”
She designs with imaginary women in mind.
“I joke that I have these three little characters, fictional characters. Because I am called DVF, they are called: Diva, Viva, and Fifa. Diva is a working woman. She is in the boardroom, she assesses herself, you know, she is powerful. Viva is a little bit more artsy. She doesn’t need to get dressed for work. She is either a singer or an artist and so she is a little bit more casual. And then you have Fifa, the suburban mom and in her leggings all day and then gets dressed. The truth is, most women today are a little bit of Diva, Viva, and Fifa.”
She identifies with Coco Chanel.
“There was a spirit [with Chanel]. We make and sell a dream. But of course it is not a dream that is empty; she became the woman she wanted to be … She made clothes that were comfortable. She brought in jersey. You cannot find a male designer that likes jersey fabric, and I can understand why. It is more beautiful to see a satin or silk. But women designers really get jersey because it is practical and feels good. Chanel used to say the perfect skirt length was “flirter avec genou” flirt with the knee, you know not too short not too long… Chanel was the essence of a woman. When I was a little girl, I always said I want a man’s life in a women's body and both of us did that.”
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