“I’ve just finished a fabulous tai chi class,” comes a raspy voice from the other end of the line. At 73, Diane von Furstenberg's days are longer than the hours that fill them. “My daily 45-minute swim isn’t until later, and I’ve finally found the missing piece to my jigsaw puzzle,” she tells me, as the countdown on our 20-minute phone call begins. We jump topics in the way her famous wrap dress has jumped generations. Von Furstenberg is one of those rare designers whose talent has long intersected with the spirit of an age.
The 2020 pandemic, however, changed a lot for the American brand. In June, it reported a 75 per cent reduction in employee strength, and the closure of 18 of its 19 global stores. Despite this, in a locked-down world, where labels are lamenting their losses, Von Furstenberg says, “This very strange period is forcing me to own it and focus on our true identity. I am very lucky to have an iconic product, the wrap dress, that has lasted for four decades. Our brand has a purpose and a message that caters to the woman in charge, and we’ve had a loyal customer following for many generations. For these reasons, I remain positive.”
Beyond her dress that made history (quite literally; it hangs in the halls of the Metropolitan Museum of Art), her legacy has spilled over to fostering emerging fashion talent as president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) and its chairperson for 13 years, supporting non-profit organisations making waves in women’s empowerment and launching a podcast channel, InCharge with DVF.
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