by Sarah Lee
The legendary Diane von Furstenberg paid a visit to Parsons the New School for Design this Monday for a conversation with Professor Hazel Clark. Known for her iconic wrap dress, Diane gave students and visitors a deep insight into the origins of the garment and how she got her start in the crazy world of fashion in New York in 1974. A member of the CFDA, Diane mentioned her strive to be active in helping form bridges between creative schools and fashion businesses.
It is hard to believe that the wrap dress has had its run for 40 years now, but Diane von Furstenberg, her team and many of her fans celebrated the anniversary of the garment at an exhibition in Los Angeles from January to May of this year. The exhibition provided visitors with an introspective look into the journey of the dress, worn by the likes of Amy Adams in American Hustle, the first lady, Michelle Obama and the Duchess of Cambridge Kate Middleton. It has become a symbol of both sexiness and properness in women for several decades now: “The dress that the boyfriend liked and the mother didn’t mind,” recalled Furstenberg, quoting one of her customers. Women can share their personal stories of the wrap dress at http://www.dvf.com/wrapstory.
Her hugely successful business was not an intended goal from the start. Furstenberg has truly exemplified the meaning of going with the flow in life, adapting to situations and taking opportunities when they present themselves. She moved to New York with an American dream and a determined goal to make it as an independent woman. That doesn’t mean she didn’t understand the value of humility and learning. She worked as an assistant for the fashion photographer Albert Koski before apprenticing under textile manufacturer Angelo Ferretti. Furstenberg emphasized the significance of these experiences in solidifying the foundation for her iconic brand. She learned the business of fashion, the complexities of fabric manufacturing, and the intimacy that women have with their clothing all during the start of her career. Later when her career took off, she recalled many of the easily overlooked details that now make up the DNA of her brand. “It is so essential to know the importance of first opportunities, first encounters and first experiences,” says Furstenberg. After retiring for a brief period, she re-launched her brand in 1992, dubbing the period of her life as her “second career”. The brand now operates under the creative direction of Michael Herz, originally from Bally.
In closing, she gave students in the audience crucial advice to making it in the business. “You have to be serious at the base… know your style… intern.” She also recommends exploring the different roles and jobs of the fashion industry, getting involved in an area that showcases ones strength, and most of all having a great relationship with oneself, because it is the most important relationship that one will have in life.