Diane von Furstenberg

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Diane Von Furstenberg-the founder of DVF.

Founded in 1972 in New York, the design studio of Diane von Furstenberg focused on empowering women from the very beginning. Creating the ‘wrap dress’ that broke norms of the time, the dress was aimed to make women feel comfortable in their own skin and to make different body shapes and sizes chic.

Index

The Origin

Brand Development

DVF Style

Famous Celebrities in DVF

Exhibitions

Current Situation

The Origin

Diane Von Furstenberg the founder of the label was born, Diane Simone Michelle Halfin to a Romanian father and Greek-born Jewish mother – a Holocaust survivor – on December 31, 1946.

She was brought up in Brussels, Belgium and at age 18 attended Madrid University, later transferring to the University of Geneva in Switzerland. It was here that she met her first husband, Prince Egon zu Fürstenberg, the German elder son of Prince Tassilo zu Fürstenberg and his first wife, Clara Agnelli, an heiress to the Fiat fortune.

They married in 1969, moved to New York, and went on to have two children – a son, Prince Alexandre von Furstenberg, and a daughter Princess Tatiana von Furstenberg – but divorced amicably three years later in 1972. Von Furstenberg decided to keep her married name, choosing to use the prefix “von” as opposed to the traditional German “zu”, due to the latter rarely being used outside of Europe, and also chose to drop the umlaut from above the “u” in Furstenberg.

She began designing clothes in 1970. “The minute I knew I was about to be
Egon’s wife, I decided to have a career. I wanted to be someone of my own, and not just a plain little girl who got married beyond her desserts,” she told the New York Times in 1977. She founded her eponymous line in 1972.

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Diane Von Furstenberg in her iconic ‘wrap dress’ on the cover of Newsweek.

Brand Development

 After founding her label in 1972, Diane created her now iconic wrap dress for the first time in 1974. She saw Julie Nixon Eisenhower on television wearing one of her wrap tops with one of her skirts and decided to combine the two garments in to one.

She was making 15,000 of the dresses a week by 1975. “I had a very down-to-earth product, my wrap dress, which was really a uniform. It was just a simple little cotton-jersey dress that everybody loved and everybody wore,” she told New York Magazine in 1988. “That one dress sold about 3 or 4 million. I would see 20, 30 dresses walking down one block. All sorts of different women. It felt very good. Young and old, and fat and thin, and poor and rich.” By 1976, more than five million dresses had been sold and Diane, at only 29 years old, was featured on the cover of Newsweek.

Due to its wide-reaching appeal, the wrap dress came to be seen as a symbol of women’s liberation in the Seventies. “It’s more than just a dress; it’s a spirit,” Von Furstenberg told The Independent in 2008. “The wrap dress was an interesting cultural phenomenon, and one that has lasted 30 years. What is so special about it is that it’s actually a very traditional form of clothing. It’s like a toga, it’s like a kimono, without buttons, without a zipper. What made my wrap dresses different is that they were made out of jersey and they sculpted the body.”

Diane was a prominent fixture on the fashionable New York party scene of the late Seventies, regularly frequenting Studio 54 with the likes of Andy Warhol and Bianca Jagger. She sold her company in the 1980s owing to a financial crisis.

Von Furstenberg relaunched the brand with renewed vitality in 1997 and went on to receive numerous accolades including the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), of which she now serves as Chairman.

In March 2010, London hotel Claridge’s unveiled a collaboration with Von Furstenberg which saw her design a series of the legendary hotel’s rooms and suites. The partnership was the latest development in a long relationship between the hotel and the designer, whose past collections had owed some their inspiration to the Art Deco premises. “One of my fondest memories was when I was in London as a young, independent businesswoman and stayed at Claridge’s. I knew I had made it,” she said. She launched the DVF Awards in 2010, a scheme which aims to recognise women whose leadership skills and vision have has a positive impact on the lives of other women around the world. Supported by The Diller-Von Furstenberg Family Foundation, each honouree receives a $50,000 award from the Foundation to sustain and expand their extraordinary contributions.

She unveiled a new diffusion line, named Diane, in February 2011. The collection of re-issued vintage prints in classic ready-to-wear and accessories styles, was available from Dover Street Market in London, as well as from Diane von Furstenberg stores. “To me Diane is the core of DVF,” von Furstenberg said, “every element of the collection is bold, colourful and easy-to-wear!”

She launched a childrenswear collection in collaboration with  Gap Kids in March 2012. “This collection is about celebrating life and colour,” she said. “The minute a little girl is born, she is already the woman she will be. So, to empower a little girl is to empower the woman she will become.” For Fall ready-to-wear 2014, Von Furstenberg titled her collection Bohemian Wrapsody, and true to the pun, it was well stocked with that signature dress. Karen Elson opened the show wearing a black-and-gold collared version that featured the same darts as the original. Prints are an equal part of DVF’s body of work, and there was no shortage of them here. Love knots, rosebuds, stars, moons, and clouds—oftentimes in bold mix-and-match combinations.

For Fall ready-to-wear 2017, Having swiftly established the new Diane von Furstenberg as a reliable source for a special dress that won’t blow anybody’s budget, Saunders (Jonathan Saunders the then Chief Design Officer) turned his attention to ensemble dressing for Fall, where his playful mix-and-match approach stood. Though it’s famously the home of the wrap dress, he considers DVF a textile house, and there was a panoply of vivid textures, colours, and patterns on offer. A tapestry stripe puffer jacket, for instance, was paired with fluid floral-print pants trailing a long contrasting sash, and an electric blue faux-fur chubby topped a leopard-spot wrap dress that was tossed over camel trousers almost like a robe. Jonathan Saunders exited DVF, in December of the same year.

Nathan Jenden was appointed the new chief design officer and vice president, creative of DVF in January 2018.

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Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge in a DVF in Australia.

DVF Style

The wrap dress is still very much the core of DVF business as is the printed jersey fabric. The brand philosophy is simple: chic effortless fashion for a woman on the move.

One of the reasons that the wrap dress continues to be popular is that it looks so good on many women. It accentuates a woman’s body at all the right places while the wraps, folds and prints can disguise growing tummies. The wrap dress looks good on women of all sizes. It’s easy to wear, versatile, and timeless — ticking all of the boxes of a best-selling garment. It’s so timeless, in fact, that it’s still as iconic as it was some 40 years ago, with its own place in the Items: Is Fashion Modern? show at the MoMa.

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Michelle Obama wearing DVF’s wrap dress in 2010.

Famous Celebrities in DVF

 DVF creations have been worn by many celebrities including Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge, Gwyneth Paltrow, Kate Beckinsale, Madonna, Tina Brown, Jessica Alba, Susan Sarandon and Jennifer Lopez.

Exhibitions

In honor of the 40th anniversary of the wrap dress’s birth, Diane von Furstenberg launched “Journey of a Dress” in Los Angeles’ historic May Company Building in 2014. The exhibit spanned the early years of Andy Warhol and Studio 54 all the way up to Amy Adam’s wrap dress from American Hustle (2013). And visitors can look forward to custom mannequins designed by Ralph Pucci, who modelled them after vintage photographs of DVF as well as the swagger of Michelangelo’s David.

Items: Is Fashion Modern? Was on display at The Museum of Modern Art from October 2017 to January 2018. Items: Is Fashion Modern? explored the present, past—and sometimes the future—of 111 items of clothing and accessories that have had a strong impact on the world in the 20th and 21st centuries—and continue to hold currency today.

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Nathan Jenden (chief design officer) with Diane Von Furstenberg.
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Sandra Campos recently appointed as the ‘chief excecutive’ of the label.

Current Situation

 Headquartered in New York City, DVF has a global distribution network in over 70 countries and with over 875 points of distribution including 111 DVF owned and partnered stores throughout North and South America, Europe, the Middle East and Asia Pacific.

Diane’s 2014 memoir, The Woman I Wanted to Be, has been translated into five languages, and in 2015 she was named one of TIME’s 100 Most Influential People.

Nathan Jenden appointed the chief design officer early this year remains so. Sandra Campos was appointed the chief executive for the label in April 2018. Campos most recently served as co-president of women’s apparel at Global Brands Group, overseeing brands including Juicy Couture, Bebe — where she worked with Jenden — as well as BCBG, Herve Leger and Tretorn. She arrives at DVF with extensive experience across e-commerce, retail, wholesale and international channels of distribution.

Von Furstenberg’s (who majorly owns her eponymous label Diane von Furstenberg Studio, L.P) current net worth is $300 millions making her 51st in the list of Forbes’ America’s richest self-made women.