#RespectYourElders: Diane von Fürstenberg is a Belgian fashion designer and philanthropist. Her popular fashion company, Diane von Fürstenberg (DVF), is in over 70 countries and she is widely considered the inventor of the iconic wrap dress.
Von Fürstenberg was born Diane Simone Michele Haflin in Brussels, Belgium in December 1946. The daughter of Jewish parents, her father migrated from Romania to Belgium and sought refuge from the Nazis in Switzerland. Her mother was a Greek-born Holocaust survivor and member of the resistance during WWII. She was imprisoned in Auschwitz up until 18 months before her daughter was born.
Von Fürstenberg grew up in Brussels, Belgium, and attended both Madrid University in Spain and the University of Geneva in Switzerland for college. She spent time as an apprenticed to designers in Paris and Italy. In 1969, she met Prince Egon zu Fürstenberg, the German elder son of Prince Tassilo zu Fürstenberg. The couple married that year and moved to New York.
The aspiring designer found quick success in the U.S. Von Fürstenberg’s wrap dress debuted in 1974. The long-sleeved silk jersey dress hit sales of over one million units in less than two years. Many considered it a symbol of women’s liberation in the 70s. She was featured in Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal for her iconic designs — cementing her in the fashion industry as a role model. Von Fürstenberg went on to open cosmetic shops, lines for home furnishings and licensed her name to designers of luggage and eyeglasses.
In the 80s, Von Fürstenberg divorced her husband and moved to Paris where she established Salvy, a publishing house. She began publishing coffee-table books, got involved with a cable network and relaunched DVF and the wrap dress, which became a bestseller, again. The following year, von Fürstenberg published her memoir, “Diane: A Signature Life.”
Von Fürstenberg spent the next few decades continuing to build her presence in the design world, receiving awards and spending time with her new husband, Barry Diller, founder of the Fox Broadcasting Company and USA Broadcasting. She is the director of The Diller – von Fürstenberg Family Foundation, which has committed over $30 million to nonprofits in public spaces, community building, education, human rights, arts, health and the environment.
Last month, Von Fürstenberg and H&M announced a new line of her home goods, including tabletop, home decor and textiles. While some of her recent businesses have struggled lately due to the pandemic, she is focused on leaving behind a legacy for her children and grandchildren.
“‘I used to be an icon,” Von Fürstenberg said in an interview. “Now I want to be an oracle.”