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Joshua Abramovich

As the last event in the 2022 Brown Fashion Week Speaker Series, students had the chance to listen to legendary designer, Diane von Furstenberg. She is not only the founder of her namesake brand but a director of The Diller - von Furstenberg Family Foundation and an author of numerous books. To moderate the event, Reeno Hashimoto ‘23, asked thought-provoking questions about Furstenberg’s journey as a designer.

The conversation began with the topic of Furstenberg’s childhood. After her mother survived the Holocaust, doctors said that she wouldn’t be able to give birth. Despite odds, Diane von Furstenberg was born, which was a victory in itself. Furthermore, her mother made her fearless, and Furstenberg realized that her life was in her hands.

When asked about her thoughts on victim culture, Furstenberg commented that her mother couldn’t afford to be a victim. In fact, Furstenberg’s book, Own It, states that the most important relationship is the one you have with yourself. She went on to say that you should own your imperfections as well as your vulnerabilities.

As a successful author and creative, Furstenberg talked about the privilege in her voice, knowledge, experience, and resources. She can connect people and make miracles. Moreover, she frequently puts people in contact with one another, calling it a “Chain of love.”

Given that Furstenberg uses her resources to help others, it was incredible to hear how her own journey started. Her first job was working for a photographer’s agent in Paris. It was through this experience that she was exposed to the fashion industry. Then, a person suggested to Furstenberg that she went to see the print side of fabric. In Como, Italy, she worked with colorists in a factory, learning how to print and build a color palette. However, at the time, she didn’t consider that she was even interested.

Furstenberg then talked about her visiting her boyfriend in New York. This enabled her to meet other young designers. After the experience of witnessing the fashion in America, she wanted an excuse to return. Later on, she started making little dresses and sold them overseas. After getting engaged, pregnant, and married, Furstenberg did come back to the United States. Her husband introduced her to Dianna, editor-in-chief of Vogue, who thought Furstenberg’s dresses were genius. As she explained, “the dress is sexy enough to get a guy but his mother doesn’t mind.” Furstenberg’s dress gained much notoriety, making it on the cover of Newsweek. At first, she was unsure why that garment was gaining so much attention out of her range of creative projects but now celebrates having a signature look.

As a result of her success, Furstenberg mentioned that she was always overwhelmed. In response, she advised the audience to find a space and dedicate time to think. When questioned about mentors, Furstenberg said that she wasn’t thinking about who’s doing what along her process. Therefore, she recommended that young designers “Just go for it.”

Today, Furstenberg participates in a book club and enjoys reading on her own. Overall, her favorite book is The Little Prince, which “has the philosophy of life.” Additionally, she has been organizing the legacy of the DVF brand, planning to define rules and clothes into a box. Working with her granddaughter and a new CEO, Furstenberg commented that over time, it's important for a brand to not lose its identity. She then described her plans after eventually leaving the company, which included doing philanthropy. Furstenberg has been supporting initiatives in New York City, like acting on the board of the Statue of Liberty to help fund the museum. Notably, she wants to use her connections to “help women be who they want to be.”

At the end of the conversation, Furstenberg left some inspiration for the students and young creatives watching. This included being open-minded, thinking about where the world is, and trying to meet the people you are interested in. Overall, it was a great honor to have Furstenberg as a guest at this year’s Brown Fashion Week. Her story was encouraging for anyone interested in pursuing their passion. As she put it, “nothing is more exciting than the beginning, so do it.”

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