Diane von Furstenberg: On Being Part of the Solution

05/12/2015 12:16 pm ET | Updated May 11, 2016

Paradigm Shifters is a series of interviews with a select group of women from eclectic walks of life. It will highlight real life insight on how women have been able to turn weakness into strength. Each interview is the naked truth about breakdowns that inspired breakthroughs. These women have experienced internal changes, which make them quintessential Paradigm Shifters.

Everything I have ever done has been focused on this underlying theme of shifting the paradigm because "what we think determines what we feel and what we feel determines what we do." Hence why Seven Bar Foundation and Empowered By You takes lingerie, which has traditionally been seen merely as a tool of seduction, and makes it a tool of empowerment.

I hope after reading these stories you will look at your own situations, struggles and accomplishments through a different lens and, at the very least, be better equipped to change your own paradigm. At the end of the day, we are our own Alchemists turning the silver we were born with into the gold we are destined to become.

Lorenzo Agius ©DVF


There has recently been a major uprising in consciousness regarding the current state of women and the fact equality for women is just not there yet. How do you feel about this?

We're not doing well. Women right now, in so many places in the world are sold in cages at markets. Violence against women is an epidemic, affecting 1 in 3 women across the globe. In the US alone, 1 in 4 women are victims of domestic violence. In 2013, more than 125 million women and girls had undergone genital mutilation. Another 30 million are at risk in the next decade. Over 20 million people are the victims of human trafficking, and the majority of those victims are women and girls.

The DVF Awards shines a light on women who are challenging the status quo and are creating a transformative impact. You have really given women a springboard with the awards. What do you feel has been a common trait amongst the women that do receive the awards?

They all are people who had to use strength to fight. It's the courage to fight, the power to survive, and the leadership to inspire. They not only survived whatever they did, but they made it their mission, and they inspire. And it's relentless; it's not, oh I did this and it happened.

You've always been a trailblazer. With the CFDA awards and the DVF Awards, what would you like the fashion industry to learn? Is there anything that you would hope they would adopt?

Awards are really about your peers recognizing you. The CFDA awards are about other designers recognizing you. And that's very nice, because when your peers who compete with you then recognize you, it's a special thing. So that's really what it is. It's usually your industry that recognizes you. In the terms of philanthropy, it's different, it's really to get people exposure to give a little bit of money.

With all your success, you're in a position to inspire people.
Everybody inspires everybody. You don't necessarily have to be that successful to inspire anybody, you just have to pay attention. You can't force inspiration, you either do or you don't. Your goal is not to inspire people. You do good things and hopefully will inspire people.

I know millennials are really inspired by you; they know that they have choices and that their choices matter. How do you feel that they are connecting?

They have choices, but in the same token in a lot of ways they don't have choices. Because the world is more and more complicated. The millennials are a big new generation like the baby boom was a big new generation. Therefore, it's very interesting as an older person; I like to mentor them because I love that moment of your life between 22 and 28. That moment of your life is the beginning of your life. That's why I do the TV show, House of DVF, because I bring girls in, and it's so interesting because at that moment you have so many doors. Which is going to be your door? You don't know. And then you push one door and it that might not look glamorous, but it is your door.

My background is in microfinance and I know you're also involved in a few organizations.

Microfinance is one of the very few truly uplifting movements that have happened in the world in the last 10 years because it's not charity. You help them to be proud. I'm also involved in Kiva and Mohammed is a wonderful guy. Microfinance is one of the few uplifting movements as is Vital Voices. It's not about distributing money; it's about giving women the tools to lift themselves out of poverty.

What legacy do you wish to leave behind?

I hope that I will have spread the word that women can and should be the women they want to be and not to be afraid of their own strength.

It is no news that Diane is a force to be reckoned with. However, what always moves me is her consistency year in and year out to continue to propel women to reach their maximum potential, which ultimately impacts the world. Diane has already left a significant imprint on humanity, but something tells me there is so much more to come. In my next post, I am honored to be able to highlight this year's DVF Award winner - Becky Straw.