Diane von Furstenberg – born Diane Simone Michelle Halfin – is a Belgian-American fashion designer and entrepreneur. More popularly known as DVF, she is the founder of her fashion label by the same name. Having been associated with the fashion industry for more than four decades, she went on to become one of the most respected names in the world of fashion. In fact, fashion experts consider her the pioneer of some of the most iconic and timeless fashion trends of all times. Her designs were dubbed liberating, making her a prominent figure during the women’s liberation movement of the seventies. With time, her brand has grown from a fashion label to a style statement. This is evident by the fact that top celebrities - such as the First Lady, A-list Hollywood stars and the Duchess of Cambridge - have donned dresses, shoes and accessories designed by her. Adding further dimension to her portfolio, she also introduced home decor, designer luggage and eyewear under the DVF brand name. A supporter of female emancipation, she has actively been involved in philanthropic endeavors. Many of her altruistic initiatives are aimed at empowering women from around the globe. Von Furstenberg is also a published author, with a number of books under her belt
Childhood& Early Life
Diane’s Romanian-origin father, Leon Halfin, had moved to Belgium where she was born on 31st December 1946. He worked as an electronics executive, while her Greek-born mother, Liliane Nahmias, was a Holocaust survivor. She was freed from the Auschwitz concentration camp shortly before she gave birth to Diane.
Von Furstenberg says that her mother inspired her to become fearless. Her mother’s story left a deep impression on her and helped her gain confidence and self-belief, which proved to be her strengths throughout her illustrious career.
She acquired her early education from schools in England, Spain and Switzerland. In 1965, she enrolled at the ‘University of Madrid’, but switched to the ‘University of Geneva’ a year later, where she majored in economics.
After graduating, she went to Paris and assisted Albert Koski, who was an agent to fashion photographers. Her calling for fashion designing came when she moved to Italy for an apprenticeship at Angelo Ferretti’s textile factory.
It was during this time that she developed a familiarity of materials, cuts and colors. This was also where she created her very first outfits using Ferretti’s silk jersey fabric.
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Von Furstenberg’s designing career formally started after moving to New York City, with her then-husband, in 1969. She marketed her existing designs and worked on new ones from the dining room of her apartment.
Her flair for designing was encouraged by the likes of designers Kenny Lane and Bill Blass, as well as Vogue editor Diana Vreeland. This led her to produce and display her first collection at New York City’s ‘Gotham Hotel’, in April 1970.
Since she had no prior experience in mass producing clothes, she started her journey by associating with leading retailers in female fashion. In April 1972, she opened her own business at ‘Seventh Avenue’ with financial help from her father.
The clothes she initially displayed at her showroom were derived from her earlier designs. It was a sweater dress named ‘Angela’, made as an ode to activist Angela Davis, which brought her to the limelight.
Her biggest claim to fame came later in 1972, when she designed the ‘wrap dress’. The dress was such a monumental success for her that it went on to become a wardrobe staple for women.
In 1974, she launched a cosmetic line and a perfume named ‘Tatiana’, a namesake of her daughter. By the next couple of years, her company had made five million wrap dresses. The dress’ popularity among women is often seen as an important step towards empowering females during the seventies.
During her hiatus from the fashion world from 1983-1997, she worked on three coffee-table books. Upon her return, von Furstenberg sold dresses and accessories worth $1.2 million on QVC within the first two hours.
In 1997, she reopened her business and brought back her signature wrap dresses. The following year, she came out with her first memoir, detailing events from her professional as well as personal life.
She launched a diffusion collection named ‘Diane’ in 2011, calling it the “core of DVF”. The year after, she introduced a clothing line for children with ‘Gap Kids’.
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Her second memoir came out in 2014, the same year as her becoming a part of the ‘Ban Bossy’ campaign, which aims to empower young women and girls.
Diane attained phenomenal success after introducing her wrap dress in April 1972, a sample of which was placed in the ‘Metropolitan Museum of Art’.
She has written two memoirs titled ‘Diane: A Signature Life’ (1998) and ‘The Woman I Wanted To Be’ (2014).
A feminist by nature, she launched ‘DVF Awards’ in 2010 to honor women with exceptional leadership skills.
Awards & Achievements
Von Furstenberg got a lifetime achievement award from the ‘Council of Fashion Designers America’ (CFDA) in 2005.
The Seventh Avenue Fashion Walk of Fame honored her with a star in 2008
Personal Life & Legacy
She met her first husband, Prince Egon of Furstenberg, in university. She was called ‘Her Serene Highness Princess Diane of Furstenberg’ after their marriage in 1969.
The couple had two children – Prince Alexander, born in 1970 and Princess Tatiana, born a year later. The marriage lasted only three years.
Post-divorce, she lost the royal title, but retained the surname. She was linked with Richard Gere, Ryan O’Neal and Warren Beatty. From 1985-1989, she was in a relationship with French author Alain Elkann.
She married media tycoon Barry Diller in 2001, having known him since the seventies. The two started the ‘Diller-Von Furstenberg Family Foundation’ to support non-profit organizations.
When this famous fashion designer, saw Julie Nixon Eisenhower don a skirt and wrap blouse by her, she decided to combine the two and came up with the wrap dress