Curiosity, Confidence and Fearlessness Shaped Fashion Icon Diane von Furstenberg’s Life

Diane von Furstenberg speaks at the 'Keynote Luncheon' during the 'Texas Conference For Women. (Photo by Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images for Texas Conference for Women)

Diane von Furstenberg speaks at the ‘Keynote Luncheon’ during the ‘Texas Conference For Women. (Photo by Marla Aufmuth/Getty Images for Texas Conference for Women)

By LAURA LOREK
Reporter with Silicon Hills News

As a little girl in Brussels, Belgium, Diane von Furstenberg did not know what she wanted to do when she grew up but she wanted to be a woman of independence who could pay her own bills and drive her own bus.

She got what she wanted.

Fashion Mogul Diane von Furstenberg created a global fashion luxury brand and invented the iconic knit jersey wrap dress.

But her advice to the more than 7,000 women attending the Texas Conference for Women on Tuesday at the Austin Convention Center was to be curious.

“Just give everything a chance,” she said.

Early in her career, she worked at a textile scarf manufacturing plant in Milan, Italy and through that experience she learned so much about the fashion industry.

During a trip to visit her boyfriend in New York, von Furstenberg started looking at fashion in a different way. When she returned to the factory, she got inspired to make something out of the jersey fabric that the Milan designer was pioneering to use for fashionable T-shirts.

Shortly after that, von Furstenberg got married and moved to New York. She also had two babies. She took fabric from the Milan factory and she made it into samples of a top and a matching skirt and that went well. That inspired her to create the wrap dress.

“It was immediately a huge success, why I don’t know,” von Furstenberg said. The dress empowered women and gave them confidence, she said.

“It was proper but it was also sexy,” she said. “The guys liked them and their mothers didn’t mind.”

The rest is history, she said. It’s all detailed her in book: “The Woman I Wanted to Be.”

“The dialog that is the most important is the one that you have with yourself,” von Furstenberg said. “The most important relationship you have in life is the one you have with yourself. If you have that, every other relationship in life is a plus and not a minus.”

The other important person in her life that led her to become the woman that she is today is her mother, von Furstenberg said. Her mother was a Holocaust survivor. She was in the Auschwitz Nazi concentration camp for 13 months. When she came out, she weighed just 49 pounds. She returned home and married her fiance. Doctors told her not to have a child for five years because she might not live and her child would not be normal.

“I was born nine months later and I was not normal,” von Furstenberg said.

Her mother and those experiences shaped her life. The torch of freedom is what von Furstenberg carries in her hand. Her mother taught her fear is not an option.

“What I have learned over the years is all women are strong,” von Furstenberg said. “I have never met a woman who is not strong. Sometimes there is a brother, a father, a religion, but most often it is themselves. They are afraid to show their strength.”

During the next 10 years, von Furstenberg said she plans to use her voice for people who have no voices. She wants to create a network of people who advocate on behalf of others. She has created an email address for people to register at voices@dvf.com

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