Hear Her Roar
When God created woman, he must have been thinking about DVF. Diane von Furstenberg truly defines the totally modern woman – mother, designer and passionate humanitarian – and at 65, as most people are slowing down, von Furstenberg is still up to speed. Since launching her eponymous fashion line in 1970, she has survived, among other things, a divorce, cancer and the loss and re-launch of her brand. Yet time and again, she has bounced back stronger than before. And while she credits her mother with teaching her fearlessness, von Furstenberg also admires “any woman who knows who she is and what she wants.” Aside from her popular global brand and adoring family, von Furstenberg also keeps busy with her work as the president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) as well as her various humanitarian projects, many which focus on women. Through it all, she has remained disciplined without ever being uptight and has maintained what many call one hell of a sense of humor. Here, she shares her thoughts on what it means to be a woman and offers up a bit of advice on how other women can be strong and courageous
What were your dreams as a child, both figuratively and literally?
I did not know what I wanted to do, but I knew the kind of woman I wanted to be. I wanted to be independent and to pay my own bills. When I was a child, I always dreamt of being an adult.
You really helped to define the working woman, both with your designs and the way you live your life. How do you think the idea of the working woman has changed from when you began your business?
I think people are more used to it now. Of course, in the 70s, women were just coming into their own in the work place and that was a huge part of the success of the wrap dress because it allowed them to go to work and still feel like a woman. I also think we are constantly moving away from the narrow idea of a woman either having a family or having a career. Now we are doing it all!
What do you think is the biggest thing holding women back and what are some of the ways that you think they can overcome these obstacles?
I always say that I have never met a woman who is not strong, but they do not always know their own strength. So I think once she realizes her strength and power, a woman really can do anything and just be the woman she wants to be.
You have both a son and a daughter. How has motherhood changed the woman you are? Did you feel a different sense of responsibility in raising a daughter?
I became a mother very young – at the same time that I was becoming a woman, really – everything happened all at once for me, so I have always been very honest with both of my children. And I don’t feel a particular responsibility in raising a girl. I think all children should be taught confidence and independence and to not be afraid, not just daughters.
What are some of the words that describe your character as a woman?
I would say that I am independent. I have always taken responsibility for my life – I never blame anyone or anything – it is my job to make it work. I have always been pretty daring, I am always trying to be true to myself, I am very open and what you see is what you get!
You are a yoga devotee. Has the practice changed the way you present yourself to the world as a woman? Do you think the physical and mental benefits of yoga have impacted your confidence, sexuality or outlook?
I think yoga is one of the best ways to build strength and awareness of yourself. I don’t know if it has changed the way I look, but it makes you aware of your body; it stretches you and keeps you flexible.
You have always been quite daring, powerful and unconventional. And your confidence is infectious. Where do these traits come from? And do you think confidence is something a woman innately possesses or must learn to develop with experience?
We all have confidence and strength, we just have to unleash it. My confidence comes from fearlessness. My mother taught me that fear is not an option, and I was able to take more risks. Then, a few of those risks turn into successes and you gain confidence. I think you can learn confidence just by understanding that the most important relationship is the one you have with yourself and being comfortable with who you are.
Do you think it’s easier to be a woman today? Do you think equality is important?
I don’t know if it is easier but I do think now is an incredible time to be a woman.
What do you think draws women to your clothes?
I design to make a woman feel beautiful, so I hope they are drawn to that, but I think there is an effortlessness about them: they fit into a woman’s life, they move with her body, they are practical but still glamorous – and what woman doesn’t want that?
You are really involved in charities for women. Tell us about that and the impact it has had on women around the world.
I have always worked to empower women through fashion, mentoring and philanthropy. I am on the board of an incredible organization called Vital Voices and they are dedicated to giving women around the world a chance to be heard and to effect positive change for women in their communities and beyond. In 2010, I started The DVF Awards to honor and support extraordinary women who are bettering the lives of others all over the world.
Who are the women that you adore and admire, and why?
I especially adore my daughter and my granddaughters, and I have always admired my mother very much. She was a Holocaust survivor and she looked fragile, but she was strong.
Sexuality is such an obvious part of being a woman. Do you think it hurts or helps a woman to be sensual or sexual? And do you think it’s possible for a woman to safely bring her sexuality into the workplace through the way she dresses?
Absolutely. I think as women our sensuality is a part of our power. It may be closer to or further from the surface in some cultures, but it is always there.
You’ve traveled the globe. Is there one place you’ve encountered on your journeys where the cultural attitude towards women has surprised, impressed or profoundly impacted you?
I don’t like it when women have no rights. As Hillary Clinton says, “Women’s rights are human rights.”
What is still on your life to-do list?
Live, learn, share, care.
Is there any motto or mantra that you live by?
The most important relationship in life is the one you have with yourself.
What part of a being a woman makes you happiest?
Being myself; being a mother. My children are my greatest creation.
What is your WILD wish?
To live a man’s life in a woman’s body, and it has come true!