Diane von Furstenberg, Fashion Princess
Diane von Furstenberg may have once been a princess, but it was the wrap dress that she created which made her famous in her own right. She disappeared from the fashion world for a while, only to reemerge stronger than ever, under the brand Diane von Furstenberg, more commonly known as DvF.
An Extraordinary Life
When she was born, she was Diane Halfin, a native of Brussels, Belgium. Her father was from Romania, and her mother a Greek Jew, who was imprisoned in the Auschwitz concentration camp just over a year before Diane was born. Diane’s mother, Liliane Nahmias, was a great influence in the young girl’s life. She taught her daughter to be fearless, and Diane took that lesson to heart.
When old enough, she went to Switzerland to attend the University of Geneva, where her major was economics. But her heart was elsewhere. After school, her mind turned to fashion photography, then to fashion itself, where she became a textile manufacturer’s apprentice, and learned the craft that would make her famous.
While at the university, she met Prince Egon of Furstenberg. Egon was the oldest son of a a German prince, and his mother was an Italian noble, as well as part of the dynasty that owns the Fiat automotive company. Diane and Egon were married in 1969, and she became a princess, against the protests of Egon’s family, who were wary of the prince being married to a woman of Jewish extraction. The couple would have two children, Alexander and Tatiana, before their divorce some years later. Diane had to abandon the title of princess, but still carries the von Furstenberg name.
Diane knew she wanted to have a career upon marrying the prince. She wanted to make her own name, not as a princess, but as someone with talent in her own right. Taking an investment of $30,000, she began to design her own clothing. She moved to New York where her designs began to sell briskly.
Her most renowned creation came early in her career – the wrap dress which has influenced so much of women’s fashion was first revealed in 1974. This dress had such a powerful impact, it remains enshrined to this day at the Costume Institute in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
In 1976, Newsweek magazine was set to put Gerald Ford on the cover, given it was primary season that year. At the last minute, the editors put Diane von Furstenberg on the cover instead. The popularity of her work seemed to know no bounds.
In the same year as the release of her seminal knitted jersey wrap dress, Diane von Furstenberg launched a line of cosmetics, including her first fragrance, named for her little daughter, Tatiana. As with all of Diane’s fragrances, this relies heavily on floral scents, blending hyacinth, jasmine, gardenia, orange blossoms, rose, tuberose, and narcissus on top of a base of sandalwood, amber, and musk. This fragrance is just perfect for an evening out.
The fragrance was just the start of many changes to come. She moved to Paris in 1985 to create a publishing house for creating French books. Her cosmetics business continued to expand, and in 1991, she created a home-shopping business, which sold products on television. The next year, she sold more than one million dollars worth of her designs in about two hours. This stunning reception would inspire her to re-launch her brand some years later.
DvF was born anew in 1997. To celebrate, Diane released her iconic wrap dress once more, and an entirely new generation of women fell in love with it. The First Lady herself, Michelle Obama, wore a Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress on the White House Christmas card, in 2009. This was the very same year an exhibition on Diane’s work began to tour, starting in Moscow, moving to Sao Paulo, and then all the way to Beijing.
A new fragrance, called simply Diane, marked her continued success. To her it was “the power of women in a bottle”. She wanted people to remember that a perfume was its own special magic, with a power that nothing else can reproduce.
The fragrance Diane manages to be powerful, yet subtle, romantic and seductive. Since she avoids fruity perfumes, this scent is strongly floral, blending two main elements that create an intriguing contrast – violets and frangipani blossoms.
It is clear Diane von Furstenberg knows the power of women, being a powerful woman in her own right. Other such powerful women, from the Duchess of Cambridge, to Madonna, to Michelle Obama, to a number of famous actresses like Gwyneth Paltrow and Kate Beckinsale have all worn DvF designs.