Wednesday, July 12, 2006

'It Girl' waltzes into valley

Diane von Furstenberg to show new line in Sun Valley

Express Staff Writer

Diane von Furstenberg will be in Sun Valley this week for the Allen & Co. conference and a trunk show of her new fall fashions.

Here are the "fashionista" facts, darling. Diane von Furstenberg, fashion designer and celebrity, has been a household name since she was in her late 20s. Now in her late 50s, beautiful, European, and titled, she ran with the in-crowd in the rambunctious 1970s of New York City and abroad and, by the way, created a little piece of clothing that became iconic. In fact, von Furstenberg's signature wrap dress is in the Metropolitan Museum of Art's fashion collections.

The DVF Studio will hold a private trunk show at the Sun Valley clothing shop Panache this week while von Furstenberg is in the valley for the Allen & Co. media and technology conference. Ten percent of the proceeds will be donated to Camp Rainbow Gold, a nonprofit organization that benefits children with cancer.

"I've been coming to the Allen & Co conference for years. We do the conference in the morning and hike in afternoon. We also go rafting one day," she said in her husky native Belgian accent. "Last year, I went into Panache and said, 'If you want, I'll do a little trunk show while I'm here.' So we shipped a lot of things from our fall designs."

Von Furstenberg has always had an eye for design, color, patterns and prints. Launched in 1972, her company sold more than 5 million of her signature wrap dresses by 1976. She successfully launched a fragrance and cosmetics division and was featured on the covers of Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal. By 1989, sales of Diane von Furstenberg products exceeded $1 billion dollars worldwide. Then she quit, when the market became saturated with wrap dress knockoffs.

Her designs were (and are) sexy but practical and fun. When she began her career in her 20s, the dresses, most notably the wrap dresses, seemed designed for her. In fact, von Furstenberg was the quintessential New York working girl, running from her work as a designer, to her life as a mother, to the fast life among the glitterati of the day. When this observation is repeated to her, she laughs.

"The theme of my fall fashion is the 'Working Girl.' When I first started, I wanted to become a certain kind of woman, in the driving seat, in control of my life, a worker, mother, married, with lovers, whatever. I became that woman. I was really inspired by other women. In my second career eight years ago, I realized, after 25 years, it is the young women who are inspiration. I am still a tiny bit that same woman."

That party-happy Studio 54 era produced such wunderkind designers and celebrities as von Furstenberg, Calvin Klein, Halston, Bianca Jagger and Steve Rubell. She was the "It Girl."

"I knew so little then," she said. "But my instincts were right. I still work by instinct, but now I know."

Now a grandmother of three, von Furstenberg is one half of a media power couple. She has been married for six years to Barry Diller, the chairman and CEO of USA Networks Inc. Her first marriage was to Prince Egon von Furstenberg, though she was single for 26 years between marriages. Her mother, Lily Nahmias, was an Auschwitz survivor, a fact that has always informed much of her success.

One wonders why, with a successful marriage and years of hard work behind her, she would try her hand at a comeback as she did a mere 10 years ago.

"I like what I do," she said briskly. "I've become a professional, and I really enjoy it. I design my own fabric, and we do a lot of them. Ten new prints a month, two fashion shows a year, collections every month so you don't see yourself everywhere on the street. All the silk is made in the Orient. Other fabric is made in Italy, America, Poland, all over."

She calls her current success a "very nice thing for me, and a compliment. It's a great, great adventure."

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