Belgium born fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg continues to shine with confidence at age 64. Striding across the stage wearing four-inch platform mirrored stilettos, this innovative designer discussed the past, present and future of her brand at the 92nd St. Y, moderated by Norman Pearlstine-chief content officer at Bloomberg L.P.
Known formerly as Princess Diane of Fürstenberg, she never knew what she wanted to be, but she did know the woman she wanted to become. Her mother, a survivor of the holocaust, taught Diane never to be afraid. Through these lessons, Diane has made stepping stones of strength and independence, deciding early in life that she was always going to drive her own bus and financially support her own lifestyle.
"Independence is most important in life," Diane stated.
Diane learned everything she needed to know about pattern printing, jersey fabric and elegant fabrics from working side by side with a dear friend in Italy at his factories. Her time there was cut short however, when she learned she was pregnant in 1969 and moved to New York City to marry the father of her child, Prince Egon of Fürstenberg.
With her knowledge in quality apparel, Diane didn't let children or marriage interfere with her career and dreams in NYC. Diane decided to pursue designing and selling her own dresses on the US market, beginning with the ever popular wrap dress. Starting out, she hired a salesman for $300 a week and agreed to give him 25% of her profit.
Diane stated, "Today, 25% of profit would be a lot, but what did I care when I was starting my business I had nothing, so 25% of nothing was nothing. I needed a salesman."
By the age of 30 Diane was already on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and had branched out into cosmetics and licensing.
"There is one moment I will never forget. I was sitting next to a gentleman on the airplane with my magazines piled in my lap and the Wall Street Journal on top, with my picture and write up of my brand on the front page of the WSJ starring up at me. The man next to me proceeded to ask me why a woman would read the WSJ. That was my proudest moment. What a moron; he didn't even notice it was me on the cover."
Today Diane speaks of feeling more secure in her business, because she is no longer working on instinct, but through experience. However, she is grateful for the risks and frustrations of the past which have paid off for her brand today.
"Frustration should be used as the fuel for success, if it eventually makes sense, then your life is successful," said Diane.
In 2005, Diane was awarded the CFDA Lifetime Achievement Award. The following year, Diane was named the President of the CFDA, an organization allowing designers to collaborate and be a force in the fashion industry.
On top of her fashion label, position as President of the CFDA amongst countless other things, Diane strongly believes in giving back as an active philanthropist for numerous organizations. She has a high admiration for women and wants to continue empowering women through confidence and mentoring.
To find out more of the philanthropies Furstenberg supports visit: inside.dvf.com/philanthropy