Friday, July 13, 2007

How to live a fashionable life

Diane von Furstenberg chats about life in the global lane

Express Staff Writer

Diane von Furstenberg smiles her way through the Allen & Co. conference. Photo by David N. Seelig

The fashion sense of Diane von Furstenberg is undeniable. Four years, after she arrived in the fashion world in 1972, she had sold millions of her signature wrap dress in the pre-internet, pre- Home Shopping Network world. Imagine!

The glamorous and connected fashionista reappeared in 1997, after more than a decade away from the business, though not out of the public eye. It didn't matter. Her clothes and her name were still hip. Her boutiques are now in major cities including New York, Miami, London, Paris, Antwerp, St. Tropez, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Shanghai, Madrid, Moscow and Brussels.

But her life is more than just fashionable. She's committed and involved in larger projects, too. Von Furstenberg worked with the women's Global Leadership Network Vital Voices, an organization that invests in emerging women leaders who are pioneers of economic development, political participation and human rights in their countries.

As well, through The Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation she played a major role in saving the historical Highline in New York City. The recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America in 2005, a year later she became the elected president of the organization. She just returned from a massive celebration of the designer Valentino's 45 years in the business, held at the Colosseum in Rome, the first private event held at the historic Flavian Amphitheater. Besides a who's who of fashion folks, it was attended by the international jet set.

On Thursday, she held a trunk show at Panache in Sun Valley during the Allen & Co. conference attended by media moguls including her husband Barry Diller.

The show featured her fall 2007 collection. Ten percent of the proceeds were donated to Camp Rainbow Gold, a weeklong free camp for children diagnosed with cancer, 14 miles north of Ketchum.

Recently, von Furstenberg answered questions posited by the Idaho Mountain Express on her career and life.

Idaho Mountain Express: "What do you like about doing this trunk show and coming to the Allen & Co. Conference each year?"

Diane von Furstenberg: "It is important to me to support the local boutiques that carry my line because they are just as important as the major department stores. They can more easily convey the image of the brand in a smaller, controlled environment. And it is equally as important to me to link to a greater cause, like Camp Rainbow Gold. These events mean so much more when you can give back to the local community, so I am happy to partner with Panache to be able to donate 10 percent of the DVF sales to this amazing organization that helps children undergoing cancer treatment."

IME: What is the current line inspired by?

DVF: "The fall collection is called 'La Movida,' inspired by the cultural landscape of Spain and the idea of movement. The clothes are all tailored to dance on the body in exquisite fabrics including fedora jersey, foiled ottoman, metal crochet, and cashmere. The shapes are geometric and the prints are inspired by Spanish artists like Picasso, Goya and Gaudi. All of the clothes are very feminine and effortless."

IME: How did you become involved with Vital Voices?

DVF: "I was first introduced to Vital Voices at a book party hosted by Tina Brown, who was involved with the organization. Melanne Verveer, co-founder and chairman of the board of Vital Voices, and I connected, and I ended up creating the new Vital Voices logo and slogan. The organization is about empowering women and letting their voices be heard, which is what I believe in personally and as part of my brand."

IME: As a former New Yorker, I'm curious about how the work on the Highline is going?

DVF: "Thankfully, we were able to save the historic Highline from being destroyed, which was the result of many people coming together to lobby for its preservation and raise the necessary funds, but the fundraising isn't done just yet. The Highline still needs support. Parts of it are under construction to build a beautiful park overlooking the Hudson River ... but it will take a few years before it is completed."

IME: You are involved also in Dress for Success. How does that work?

DVF: "Dress for Success is another amazing global organization that empowers women to enter the workforce and feel confident doing so through mentoring programs and wardrobing. It makes perfect sense to partner with them because my fashion philosophy is to create clothes that allow women to be themselves and make them feel confident, and therefore, beautiful. We have hosted events similar to Panache where proceeds from sales are donated to Dress for Success, and we recently partnered with Saks Fifth Avenue in New York to host a clothing drive. Women brought in their used DVF dresses and donated them to Dress for Success to receive a discount off their new DVF purchase."

IME: How was the three day Valentino celebration?

DVF: "The Valentino weekend was incredible. The exhibition was superb, the party and its suspended ballet with the Colosseum as a backdrop was a once in a lifetime sight, the fashion show was emotional and the grand dinner at Villa Borghese was wonderful. It was a culmination of 45 years of beauty, love of life and generosity. A lovely souvenir."

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