soon a glamorous fixture at Studio 54, rubbing shoulders with Yves Saint Laurent and Andy Warhol. I point out it must have been exciting to be part of a movement so integral to pop culture, but she is quick to add: “Studio 54 lasted only two years. You know what was different? We had no AIDS then. That’s changed everything.”
Change also came to her in the ’90s: She was diagnosed with cancer and in the same decade her namesake brand lost its groove. Ever the trooper, she fought her illness and resurrected her label by designing for a new generation of women who, like her, are in tune with their own strengths and identities. This rapport with one’s self, according to von Fürstenberg, is vital. “That is the one advice I would give anyone. The most important relationship in life is the one you have with yourself.”
Her achievements made her a worthy recipient of the Council of Fashion Designers of America’s lifetime achievement award in 2005. She also assumed the role of the council’s president, and in the years since, she’s tended to an ever-growing support system that has launched the careers of Alexander Wang, Joseph Altuzarra, and Prabal Gurung.
45 years after she first impressed Diana Vreeland with her suitcase of dresses, it seems von Fürstenberg is ready for a new beginning of sorts. “I do see this as a rebirth – not for the dress, but for the company,” she explains. “As a designer, I think I’m your friend in the closet, so I want to translate that into everything we do. It has to be solution-driven.”
That said, she’s not above talking about her legacy and mortality: “I would like [whoever takes over] to understand the true spirit of what I want to do. My role is to give women [the] tools so they can be the women they want to be. And I want everything to be in format. It’s very simple.
“Life is a journey and death is a destination. But I’m not afraid of that,” she reveals. “If the world ends tomorrow, I’ll say, ‘Thank you.’”
Diane von Fürstenberg speaks to Gerald Tan about that famous wrap dress, having no regrets, and the importance of finding one’s
voice in the world.