Diane Von Fürstenberg, Founder & Chairman, DVF | Summary and Q&A

November 12, 2018
Stanford Graduate School of Business
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Diane Von Fürstenberg, Founder & Chairman, DVF


Designer Diane Von Furstenberg discusses her career, women's empowerment, and the importance of self-confidence and character in a conversation at Stanford University.

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Questions & Answers

Q: How did Diane Von Furstenberg start her career in fashion?

Von Furstenberg started her career as an apprentice in a factory, not originally intending to become a fashion designer. However, she embraced opportunities and followed her passion, which led her to create the iconic wrap dress.

Q: How did Von Furstenberg's early experiences shape her views on women's empowerment?

Von Furstenberg believes that women should strive for independence and financial stability. Her experiences, including marrying a prince and continuing to work, taught her the importance of maintaining her own identity and not relying on others for financial support.

Q: What role did the Women's Liberation Movement play in Von Furstenberg's life and career?

Von Furstenberg was part of the Women's Liberation Movement, which aimed for gender equality. She witnessed the challenges faced by women in the workforce and believes that recent movements like Me Too and Times Up are essential in addressing issues of harassment and inequality.

Q: How does Von Furstenberg use her platform to empower women?

Von Furstenberg created the DVF Awards, which recognize women who have shown strength, leadership, and courage. She also believes in using her voice to advocate for women's rights and encourages women to support and uplift one another.


In this interview, Diane von Furstenberg (DVF) discusses her early career, her famous wrap dress, and her thoughts on women's empowerment and the Me Too movement. She also shares her seven pillars for designing a fulfilling life: character, body and mind, heart, purpose, aesthetics, nature, and rituals.

Questions & Answers

Q: Can you tell us about your experience working as an apprentice in a factory and how it shaped your career?

When I was young, I didn't have a clear direction for my career. But I learned to be open and curious, and that led me to an internship in a factory in Italy. It was there that I discovered my passion for fashion, even though I didn't expect it at the time. I believe in following your heart and paying attention to the opportunities that come your way.

Q: What motivated you to continue working even after marrying a prince and starting a family?

I wanted to maintain my financial independence and not rely on my father or husband for financial support. I wanted to prove that I could be successful on my own. But I also acknowledge that this decision had an impact on my marriage. Ultimately, I chose to prioritize my career and my personal growth.

Q: What do you think set your wrap dress apart from other designs at the time?

The success of the wrap dress wasn't a result of some grand plan. It was a combination of circumstances and innovations in the fashion industry. I was working with a printing factory, and we discovered a way to create jersey fabric using unused knitting machines. Jersey fabric was not commonly used in clothing at the time, but I saw its potential and decided to create a dress out of it. The wrap dress became popular because of its simplicity, versatility, and the way it flattered a woman's body. It resonated with women who wanted to feel confident and empowered.

Q: How do you feel about the current movements for women's empowerment, such as Me Too and Times Up?

I think these movements are incredibly important for establishing a culture of respect and equality. In the past, women often had to tolerate harassment and inequality in the workplace. The Me Too and Times Up movements have brought these issues to the forefront and are creating real change. I believe it's our responsibility as women to support one another and raise our sons to respect women. By being strong and standing together, we can make a difference.

Q: Can you tell us about the DVF awards and why you created them?

The DVF awards were started to recognize and support women who have shown strength, courage, and leadership. It was my son's idea, and I thought it was a great way to give back to the community of strong women. Over the years, we have honored many remarkable women who have gone on to achieve even greater success. It's a way for me to use my voice and resources to empower other women.

Q: How do you think about protecting young women in the fashion industry, considering the power dynamics and potential for exploitation?

As the CDFA President, we have set up rules and guidelines to protect young models in the industry. It's important to create a safe environment and ensure that they are not subjected to harassment or exploitation. We are constantly working on improving these standards and holding individuals accountable. It's also important for the industry as a whole to value and respect women, given that women are the prime consumers in the fashion industry.

Q: How did your mother's experience surviving Auschwitz influence the woman you wanted to be?

My mother's survival and resilience taught me the importance of never being a victim. She always told me that no matter what happens in life, I can never be a victim. This mindset has shaped my character and instilled in me a sense of strength and determination. I strive to live a life of freedom and authenticity, inspired by my mother's courage.

Q: Can you elaborate on your seven pillars for designing a fulfilling life?

The seven pillars are character, body and mind, heart, purpose, aesthetics, nature, and rituals. Character refers to the relationship we have with ourselves and the discipline to cultivate a strong sense of self. Body and mind involve taking care of our physical and mental well-being. Heart represents love, compassion, and being human. Purpose relates to our work, independence, and identity. Aesthetics focuses on personal style and creativity. Nature reminds us to connect with the world around us. Finally, rituals are the small actions we perform daily that bring meaning and structure to our lives.

Q: What advice do you have for this audience?

The most important advice I can give is that the most important relationship you have is the one with yourself. Cultivate a strong sense of self, take care of your physical and mental well-being, and pursue a purpose that excites you. Embrace your individuality and use your voice to make a positive impact. Finally, remember to appreciate the beauty and connections in the world around you. Design your life according to these pillars and find fulfillment.


Diane von Furstenberg has had a remarkable career in the fashion industry, but she believes that true success comes from cultivating a strong sense of self and using one's voice for the benefit of others. She emphasizes the importance of women supporting each other and fighting for equality, as well as the need for individuals to recognize their own strength and embrace their unique qualities. By following the seven pillars she outlines, DVF believes that anyone can design a fulfilling life.

Summary & Key Takeaways

  • Diane Von Furstenberg shares her early career experience, emphasizing the importance of being open, following one's heart, and paying attention to opportunities.

  • She speaks about her marriage to a prince, her decision to continue working, and the importance of financial independence.

  • Von Furstenberg discusses the creation of her famous wrap dress and how it became a symbol of women's empowerment.

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