Diane: A Signature Life (Paperback)
Diane is the frank and compelling story of an extraordinary woman and her adventures in fashion, business, and life. "Most fairy tales end with the girl marrying the prince. That's where mine began," says Diane Von Furstenberg.
She didn't have to work, but she did. She lived the American Dream before she was thirty, building a multimillion-dollar fashion empire while raising two children and living life in the fast lane.
Von Furstenberg's wrap dress, a cultural phenomenon in the seventies, hangs in the Smithsonian Institution. "No one was making a little bourgeois dress, so I did," she told Newsweek in her 1976 cover story. The dress achieved such popularity that in the five years it was on the market, Diane sold more than five million of them. Her entry into the beauty business in 1979 was as serendipitous and as successful.
Diane learned her trade in the trenches, crisscrossing the country to make personal appearances at department stores, selling her dresses and cosmetics. "As I was learning to be a woman and enjoying being one, I was sharing my discoveries, designing for my needs, and making a business of it," she writes. That business had its ups and downs. Eventually, there was so much demand for and exposure of the dress that the market became saturated; on the verge of bankruptcy, she licensed that part of the business, focusing on her fragrance and beauty products.
Von Furstenberg's personal world unraveled a bit in 1980 when her mother, Lily, a survivor of Auschwitz, had a breakdown. Diane of course knew about her mother's experience in the camps, though her mother had never wanted to dwell on it. She understood that her own need for freedom came from her mother's lack of it, and that her resilience derived from her mother's life lesson to always turn a negative into a positive.
Leaving the glitz of Manhattan and the music of Studio 54 behind, Diane escaped to Bali with her children, returning inspired and renewed. With all of this energy, the cosmetics business flourished. But it grew so fast that in 1983 she found herself undercapitalized and was forced to sell.
In 1985, having given up control of her brand to licensees and with her children away at school, Diane turned her back on America and packed for Paris. She spent four years in her new role as part of the literary scene there, trading in her spike heels for flat shoes and tweed.
In 1990, she found she missed the chase and returned to New York to regain control of her name and relaunch her company. Frustrated by the degraded status of her brand and dismissed by the retail community, she searched for a new way to reconnect with her customers. She found it through the revolutionary new medium of teleshopping and once again became a success. However, she still wanted to return to retail.
In 1997, as the wrap dress was making a comeback with the nostalgia for the seventies, Von Furstenberg, with the help of her beautiful daughter-in-law, Alexandra, redesigned the dress for the nineties and made her name relevant to a whole new generation.
Now, at fifty, Diane works to make sense of the contradictions in her life: glamour vs. hard work, European vs. American, daughter of a Holocaust survivor vs. wife of an Austro-Italian prince, mother vs. entrepreneur, lover vs. tycoon. She emerges wiser, stronger, and ever more determined never to sacrifice her passion for life.
About the Author
Diane von Furstenberg entered the fashion world in 1970 and four years later introduced her famous wrap dress. Her luxury fashion brand, DVF, is now available in more than fifty-five countries all over the world. Director of the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation, she is an active philanthropist and supporter of emerging female leaders and social entrepreneurs. In 2015, she was named one of the Time 100 Most Influential People. She is the author of The Woman I Wanted to Be and Diane: A Signature Life.
Dominick Dunne Diane Von Furstenberg's extraordinary success in the fashion and cosmetics worlds has never surprised me. From the time she hit New York as a young bride in 1969, it was apparent that she had bigger plans for her life than being just a jet-set princess. In Diane: A Signature Life, she takes us on her path to attaining that vision, while at the same time documenting the social history of her time that she helped to create. It's a wonderful read.
Gloria Steinem Diane Von Furstenberg's autobiography is an irresistible account of a diverse, fascinating, erratic, and hardworking life. Women readers especially will take heart from her professional struggles as well as her private ones to raise children and stay a whole person.
Calvin Klein Diane Von Furstenberg is the quintessential modern woman. You must read this book.
Deepak Chopra Diane Von Furstenberg's Diane: A Signature Life is a riveting memoir by an extra-ordinary woman. The daughter of a Holocaust survivor, she built a fashion empire on her own, raised two beautiful children, and triumphed in her struggle with business setbacks and personal illness. She is an inspiration.
Katherine Betts Vogue I read it straight through and could not put it down. It is honest, poignant, well-written, and, most of all, an inspiration to all women trying to make a name for themselves.
Fran Lebowitz Print it. It's a wrap.