NEW YORK, NY MAY 11, 2016
Diane von Furstenberg wears many hats: self-made millionaire, fashion legend, entrepreneur, party girl, reality TV star, erstwhile princess and, most recently, Oprah of the fashion world. Last week, the inimitable DVF took the stage at the W Hotel in Leicester Square in London alongside British designer Mary Katrantzou as part of the corporation’s “What She Said” speaker series — roundtable discussions with successful women in fashion, music and design hosted at Ws the world over. Topics included the designers’ respective beginnings, challenges they’ve faced throughout their careers and the ever-fickle fashion industry.
Though von Furstenberg’s wisdom was aimed at the graduating class of the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) Fashion Incubator — the organization of which she is president — in a world where “every person is a brand,” her career advice reaches far beyond the fashion world.
Social media has completely altered the way we interact with one another and our environment, including our clothing choices. “You see a shift in how people buy and how people connect to product, and how loyal they are or disloyal they are,” she said. “Even in magazines, what gets edited in, it’s now so disparate because there’s so many voices.” The key is not to fall deaf to your own voice amongst the cacophony, “Be true to yourself and not to try to copy left and right,” Diane cautioned. “There’s nothing worse than doing something because somebody told you to do it, but you didn’t really want to do it, and then it was a mistake. That’s a nightmare. If you make a mistake because you wanted to do it, that’s cool, that’s okay.”
Your career will go through various stages, but that’s just the natural progression of things, says the designer: “You have different plateaus. You look at it and you say, ‘Whoo, I overextended myself,’ yada yada, so you fix, yada yada, and then you go to the next plateau.” Diane recalled, “For years and years and years, I wrote in my diary. Any diary that I pick and I open, I’m always at the turning point of my life. It looks like I did nothing but turn.”
Finally, you’re going to experience self-doubt, you’re going to be boxed-in at one time or another, but don’t let that detract from your drive. “Still to this day, there are days that I wake up and I think that I’m the biggest loser,” she said. “I question myself.”
“My name is always followed by the wrap dress and there were years that I said, ‘Okay, I’ve done other things.’ But now I reconciled with it. I was the original wrapper,” Diane conceded. “You cannot underestimate the power of the first juice, first book, first song, first movie.”
Ultimately, (not to sound like a fortune cookie, but) success is all about self-actualization. “All I knew was that I wanted to be liberated, pay my own bills and sleep with whoever I wanted,” Diane says of her ambitions as a young woman.