14 Things We Learned About Diane Von Furstenberg At The 92Y

As if we weren’t already enough in awe of Diane von Furstenberg from a distance, this week we were fortunate to be in the designer’s presence not one, not two, but three whole times. The first was at Fashion’s Night Out, the second at her spring runway show, and the third was Wednesday night at the “Fashion Icons” event at the 92Y, where the designer spoke to Fern Mallis about her personal life, her philosophies, and how her company came to be the empire it is today.

DVF is from Brussels originally, and her languorous voice has a cosmopolitan, European lilt. She gamely traced her life’s history back from her earliest days (“My birth was a miracle, so I had won from the start.”) all the way to her latest collaboration with Google in incorporating their new “Glass” technology into her spring runway show. She follows designers like Michael Kors and Tom Ford in the series, and suffice it to say this is a woman who has led a very fascinating life:

  1. There is a good reason why she believes that things happen to you for a reason, and it derives from an experience her mother had while interned at a concentration camp:
  2. They were going to be washed and have their heads shaved, and there was a big line with a soldier saying ‘You go right, you go left.’ Behind the soldier is an elevated podium with man in white who doesn’t move, he’s of a higher rank. To the woman in front of her, the soldier says go right, and she follows and goes right, and the soldier lets her go. The other man in white gets up, goes to her, takes her by the arm and whips her and threw her in the other side. My mother looks at him with such hate and says ‘Why? Why do you care?’ She had never hated anybody so much. Well, the truth is that this man saved her life. Because the other line was going to the gas chamber. Sometime you think something is the absolute worst thing that could happen to you, and maybe it isn’t.

  3. A taste for luxury is in her blood. When her mother received her reparation check from Germany:
  4. She bought a sable coat.

  5. She has an exciting project in the works.
  6. I am in the process of writing a book. The first 60 pages are about my parents.

  7. Like Tom Ford, she embraced middle age well before her time.
  8. I always wanted to be a grown-up, too. I was a happy child, but I didn’t like the condition of being a child. I still feel sorry for children because they’re being told what to do. I have the absolute opposite of Peter Pan syndrome.

  9. She was once a prolific writer of love letters.
  10. I wish I had the ones I wrote. About two years ago, a boyfriend that I had in Italy, he died and his wife found this big box. And she wrote to me and she said she found this box…I hadn’t been with him that long but I guess I wrote him every single day.

  11. Her first wedding dress, which she wore to marry Prince Egon of Fürstenberg, sounds like something we’d really like to see (we’ve already seen her second). If only the artist who was supposed to make a sculpture out of it hadn’t lost it years ago.
  12. Since I was pregnant, I felt it wasn’t really appropriate to wear completely white. And I had just seen the movie called Tom Jones and it was this big wonderful thing with parties in the countryside…and so I went to Marc Bohan, who was the creative director for Christian Dior and I said ‘I would like a dress that fits like I can have countryside wedding.’ So it was white but it was like an open, cut-out —almost like a lace. Inside I had colorful petticoats, lots of colors and ribbons and a hat with flowers on top of it. And I had horrible shoes, which made me look like a duck.

  13. She’s not a fan of Rachel Zoe-speak.
  14. I love words. I love the use of words. I think it’s very important to watch words because I think words are very powerful, so you have to watch them very carefully. I can never understand when people say ‘I die for this’…what? You can’t say that.

  15. While living in Paris in the Sixties, she befriended actress/model Marisa Berenson, but never met Berenson’s grandmother Elsa Schiaparelli.
  16. She lived in a little hôtel particulier, and it was a little extravagant but in a very kind of negligée way. I never met her. She was always upstairs always, and I was always downstairs. And so I never really met her but I knew [Marisa] had a very famous grandmother who was a tyrant.

  17. Falling for a man with a big ego was never in the cards.
  18. What attracts me in men usually is shyness and helplessness. I don’t like a confident, joking lawyer.

  19. That said, her husband Barry Diller doesn’t seem all that helpless to us:
  20. His wedding gift to me was 26 wedding bands. One for each of the years that we weren’t married. Whenever a friend of mine is sad, I give her one. I still have a lot, though.

  21. Though her company is still overwhelmingly made up of women, she has recently changed her philosophy on men in the workplace:
  22. I used to be very proud of it and say in my company the men drive or clean, but now I realize that a few men is actually kind of good.

  23. She, like most Twitter users, is a little obsessed with her follower counts.
  24. In America, I have 425,000 and in China I have 609,000 and I am completely addicted. I wake up every morning and I check how many more Chinese followers I have. Just to tell you how quickly it goes, on Sunday I had 600,000 and tonight there were 609,000.

  25. The departure of head designer Yvan Mispelaere earlier this week was amicable, and the company isn’t scrambling for a replacement.
  26. Yvan was a really talented designer and he joined DVF over three years ago and he was very, very helpful. I think he had a good time and he has a whole other way of seeing fashion and doing fashion. He felt that his mission was accomplished, so we parted. I think that we put together a really dynamic team and I think maybe — I don’t know — there are so many talented designers and I love the idea of having a laboratory.

  27. She has no shortage of motivational maxims:
  28. Fear is not an option.

    No matter what you do you should never be a victim.

    Sometimes you think that something is the absolute worst thing that could happen to you, and maybe it isn’t.

    You only regret the things you don’t do.

photo courtesy of Joyce Culver/92Y

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