Diane with two models at the launch of her spring/summer collection, February 25 1976.
With all the press surrounding the Diane von Furstenberg exhibition at LACMA in Los Angeles, it is easy to get caught up in the company’s incredible success and her role as a veteran doyenne of American fashion. An interview with Diane from 1975 spells out her original mission and goals —all of which she completed and surpassed. The then-28 year-old had built her company into a $13-million dress business in three years and was in the process of launching offshoot jewelry and cosmetics projects at the time of the interview; all the while taking care of her two toddlers. At a time when women’s roles were evolving—with the ‘Quiet Revolution’ leading to more females joining the workforce (between 1972, the year DVF started her company, to 1985 women's share of professional jobs increased from 44 to 49 percent and their share of "management" jobs nearly doubled from 20 to 36 percent)—von Furstenberg was able to fill a gap in the market for chic, affordable clothes that looked equally good in an office as on a date or at a PTA meeting. An expert merchandiser, Diane has from the beginning understood how women live their lives and the clothes they need to help them do this elegantly and comfortably.
Honest and forthright, almost all of Diane’s answers in this interview are worth repeating here—as a women who is unapologetically ambitious, sexual and motherly, DVF should be seen as an inspiration for all ladies who are seeking more.
DVF: “Because I’m a woman, I know how important comfortable, easy clothes are. That’s why I believe in dresses, especially two-piece ones. You can wear the top as a shirt or a jacket with a blouse underneath. Women need clothes that make sense. When we’re young, we can be communists and wear jeans, but when we have children and assume important positions in the world, we have to look respectable.”
Diana Vreeland: “Anybody who makes clothes as wearable as she does is important. She has a genius for understanding what people want just before they realize they want it.”
DVF: “I don’t need to be married, but I do need a man.”
DVF: “Women are never taken seriously anyway, and in my case, I was not only young, but a so-called jet-setter. People’s attitude toward me made it more important to succeed.”
DVF: “I agree with them when they say fashion tries to exploit women. I say that’s why they must know what they’re doing. They have to be at ease with themselves, accept their good features, and change or accept their bad ones.”
DVF: “I’m the same as I was when I was a little girl; but success has given me an identity. Before, my identity was Egon, and I was playing at life, marriage, and motherhood. People thought I was a terrible bitch. Maybe I was, sometimes, but now I’m not afraid to be myself.”
Interview by Kathleen Brady for Viva, April 1975. All photographs by James Moore.