Four decades after Diane von Furstenberg created the iconic wrap dress, she continues to be a style powerhouse. T. Krithika Reddy interacts with the New York-based designer during her visit to India
With her cloud of curls, well-defined cheekbones and a suitcase stuffed with jersey dresses, Diane von Furstenberg stormed the style scene in New York, attracting the flashbulbs during fashion's liberating Seventies. The erstwhile princess of Germany's famous House of Furstenberg turned to the business of fashion when taste became more than a trivial pastime. Her simple design — a dress that wrapped one side over the other to form a front closure — was interpreted as a symbol of women's emancipation. By the mid-1970s, her empire was producing over 20,000 wrap dresses a week in classic monotones and languid prints. The form-embracing creation has survived the exhibitionist Eighties, the natty Nineties and the style-saturated 2000s, to remain a staple in the wardrobes of the fashion elite.
During her visit to India, the designer had a packed itinerary, including a visit to Kitsch, the style store that showcases DVF in Mumbai, a retreat in the palaces of Rajasthan and shopping stints with quaint quilt and chikankari artisans. In an e-mail interaction, the diva who also engages herself in many philanthropic pursuits, speaks about her iconic dress, the DVF design philosophy and India as an inspiration. Here's a wrap-up!
A FASHION SENSATION From a suitcase full of jersey dresses to creating a global label, the last four decades have been a whirlwind. It's been a learning experience. I'm so grateful. I wouldn't change a thing.
CLOTHES AND MORE The DVF label covers a wide range — from garments and accessories to fragrance and home linen. I always say ‘design your life.' So it has been natural for me to move beyond fashion into the realm of lifestyle. I listen to what women want and give them that. The process is very much the same, whichever the sphere of creativity.
MARKET DYNAMICS I wouldn't say I reinvent myself constantly. Instead I just stay true to myself. That is what makes DVF timeless and effortless. We have amazing buyers who know their markets. Yvan Mispelaere, my co-designer at DVF, and I just try to realise our vision and create what we are inspired to do. The buyers curate that for the various markets.
DESIGN PHILOSOPHY Fashion is a reflection of who you are. It is how you chose to present yourself to the world and that is very important. In my design philosophy, the woman comes first. If you are looking at the clothes and not seeing the woman, then I have not done my job.
FRESHNESS IS ALL I see inspiration everywhere. I always have ideas and it can be a challenge to find the right one for a particular moment or collection. But I always have a vision. Yvan and I are lucky we are able to create four collections a year. Most of our ideas become reality.
STROKE OF CREATIVITY The wrap dress was designed in the early 1970s. It has stood the test of time. To me, the fabric is important. Silk jersey is flattering to the body and allows women to move freely. The style is timeless. It's feminine. It's serious, but also seductive.
BEYOND STYLE Designing clothes and the success of my business are what enabled me to be the woman I wanted to be. Now that I've achieved this, I work to inspire other women find the best version of themselves. Fashion is a form of expression. I create clothes that give women confidence.
WOMEN'S ISSUES I'm involved with a lot of work concerning women. There were many stumbling blocks on my road to success but many people helped me along the way. I try to learn from the former and focus on the latter. It is important to be grateful. So whenever I can, I try to help people achieve their goals and put that good intention back in the universe.
INDIA INSPIRES The fashion scene is absolutely stunning. The women are so graceful. The way they command their saris and move is such an inspiration. DVF gets a lot of its embroidery done in India. We have used some Indian textiles too. Colour combinations, patterns, the effortless elegance of women in saris… are all huge inspirations. On a personal note, I love the white embroidered Lucknowi kurtas. I sleep in them! I simply adore them. They're comfortable, allow you to move freely and, at the same time, glamorous and beautiful – that's so DVF!
TO ASPIRING DESIGNERS Just go for it. You only regret the things you don't do. Clarity defines a designer. If you are clear about your vision, then you have everything.