Diane von Furstenberg was working on a new book, “Own It: The Secret to Life,” when the pandemic began. Suddenly, the fashion designer’s words of wisdom and advice, due to be published in March, seemed more urgent.
“It’s a very difficult time, but that’s why, since you have no choice, you just have to own it,” said von Furstenberg, 74, who founded her New York City-based eponymous brand in 1972. “If you own it, then you deal with it. Whether you like it or not, you just have to accept it and do the best you can with it.”
The Belgian-born designer, often referred to as DVF, chaired the Council of Fashion Designers of America from 2006 to 2019. She was inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame, whose honorees changed the course of history, in 2019.
In her book, von Furstenberg takes readers on an A to Z journey of advice.
“Let’s take ‘C’ — the words are character, clarity, compassion, ceremony, creativity coherence, courage, commitment, confidence,” she said.
“Character is the one and only thing we have total control of — we can lose our health, wealth, beauty, family or freedom, but we never lose our character. Our character is our strength, the house inside ourselves.”
Von Furstenberg talked to Reuters about her secrets to success as well as what future fashions may look like. Edited excerpts are below.
Q: What have you learned in this pandemic?
A: It made me realise more and more to be myself and to own it and be in charge and to be who you are.
As far as the business was concerned, I was very swift. I moved very fast. I realised our business, the fashion business and the fashion system and mode, which really, I’d been saying that for a long time was very outdated, it wasn’t at the pace of everything else. And so I really moved on that. I went more digital than ever. We had been going into the virtual world and we had to accelerate that enormously.
In your book, you talk about turning vulnerabilities into strengths. Do you have any advice on applying that in this pandemic?
The minute you own your vulnerabilities, your imperfections, they become an asset. It applies for everything, and to everyone, even children.
It’s a question of being aware and saying this is what’s happening and I have to make the best of it. It’s just a question of knowing the only thing you have control of is yourself.
What did you learn from your first job?
I worked for a photographers’ agent, and I learned the side of the business of fashion that is in images - photographers and models and shooting and magazines. I knew nothing at first, and then I just learned everything. I discovered the world of fashion.
What do you think work attire is going to look like after the pandemic is over?
That’s the mystery of fashion. You always think fashion is decided by designers, but it’s decided by the street, the needs, the people.
We’re designing right now for it. I think people will care more about quality. This time was very useful to go back to the core of what DVF is about - using our bank of colors, our library of prints, silhouettes that seem easy but have all the details of old-fashioned dressmaking, reliable but beautiful clothes that bring you confidence.
What job advice do you always give?
If you want your boss to notice you, be the first to come and the last to leave. That shows commitment.
Do you have a new work habit in 2020?
I am in the country, so I go for a very, very long walk every day. Walking always inspires me.
It’s really been a year where we have the opportunity to think. I’ve had a great, full and colourful life. How do I use my voice, my experience and my knowledge to help other women lead a full and wonderful life?
Where do you want to go when the world opens up again?
I have traveled so much in my life and will continue to do that, but what I have learned the most this year is how much I love to be home. (Editing by Lauren Young and Richard Chang)
By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan.