Diane von Furstenberg, still the elegant, charming, professional she has always been.
I thought I would continue my thoughts on all the changes that have recently occurred on the fashion scene. The Wall Street Journal in their March MSJ magazine www.wsj.com/public/page/magazine-index , which came out on Saturday, February 18, did a superb profile on Diane von Furstenberg, the woman and the brand. It brought to mind the several times I worked with her at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago.
I think most of us know Diane’s story but just a brief reminder, the iconic wrap dress first appeared in 1974 and was an immediate must have. Not only was it unique, but it was extremely easy to wear, packed like a dream and was quite sexy, for a wrap dress, in its clingy jersey and v neck. It was such a hit that it landed Diane on the cover of a 1976 issue of Newsweek which named her “the most marketable woman since Coco Chanel.”
I had this exact print dress and thought I was quite the trendsetter!
Early in her career she make a personal appearance at Saks Fifth Avenue, Chicago at our then location at 669 North Michigan Avenue (now the home of Nike Town) and I must say the sales were amazing. Her fan base then as now was huge! I found her to be totally charming, very interested in her clients opinions and very willing to engage with everyone, fans and staff alike.
The next time she visited the Store was when she launched her cosmetics line in the late 1980’s…it was also a major hit with her loyal following. It was at this personal appearance that I have a charming story to relate….we were in my office and Ms. von Furstenberg wanted to make a phone call (certainly no mobile phones at that time…doesn’t that sound antiquated!!!). I ensconced her at my desk and politely left her to her call. Across from my desk and other walls were autographed photos of all the designers I had worked with, when I returned she said to me “I hope you don’t mind (with her charming accent) but I saw my photo on your wall, took it down and autographed it for you!” Of course, I didn’t mind, I was going to ask her to do so before she left. What I loved was what she said next…”When I took it out of the frame I noticed there were other photos of me so I chose the one I liked best!” I loved that….that photo is housed in the Nena Ivon Archives at Columbia College Chicago, www.columbia.edu, along with the ones she didn’t sign!!!
Shortly after this launch she left the business and went to Paris. She relaunched the wrap dress in 1997 and when I asked her why at that time when she was making another personal appearance with SFA Chicago at the current address, 700 North Michigan Avenue, she said “My daughter, Tatiana, and all her friends, were buying the “vintage” DVF wrap dresses at vintage stores and pairing them with boots, interesting belts and other accessories making them very modern and young…I thought it was time to reinvent the wrap dress and sell it myself and the rest is history!”
A very bad photo at the launch of the DVF cosmetics collection (we both look like we could have dipped our fingers into some of the product!) in the late 1980’s. I have very few regrets, I find regrets “regrettable” but boy, oh boy do I wish I had had a digital camera or mobile phone so I could have captured many moments in time with designers and shows that now only live in my memory!
Diane is now preparing to step away from her legendary brand and has put the creative reins in the hands of the Chief Creative Officer, Jonathan Saunders.
Jonathan Saunders with Diane von Furstenberg.
The Fall/Winter 2017 version of the wrap dress. Note the styling of the outfit and the staging of the presentation.
I love the combination of prints and the bold accent of color, bravo Jonathan!
The Collection images from www.vogue.com
Diane is currently president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) www.cfda.com, a position she has held since 2006. She has been an amazing president and has taken the group into the 21st Century with aplomb, of course she has just like she has managed her brand, a superb and successful business woman who will be around for a very long time doing what she does best, create a magnificent lifestyle