Diane Von Furstenberg (1946-)

Company: Diane von Furstenberg Studio
Started: 1972; re-launched 1997
Size: $200 million as of 2011

If a single garment could symbolize women’s independence in the heyday of the 1970s women’s movement, it would be Diane von Furstenberg’s iconic wrap dress. Von Furstenberg was an unlikely entrepreneur; a Jewish immigrant who married a German prince, she was barely out of her twenties when her simple cotton jersey wrap dress took off, selling over one million dresses in the 1970s. The marriage was short-lived, but as a designer, von Furstenberg became an emblem of feminism and femininity, celebrated in the press and making the cover of both Newsweek and the Wall Street Journal in 1976. In the mid-1980s, she stepped back from her wild success, licensed various aspects of her business and relocated to Paris. She returned to the U.S. in 1990, and in 1997, she rode the wave of nostalgia around her vintage wrap dresses, re-launching her company with an updated version. In the 2000s, she continued to expand her brand, including a housewares line in 2011. As of 2013, DVF products were sold in 70 countries and 45 freestanding stores. In 2005, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America and was elected the CFDA president in 2006. Her wrap dress was worn by Michelle Obama in 2009. In 1999, von Furstenberg and husband Barry Diller established the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation, to support and provide opportunities to organizations and individuals worldwide, and in 2010 von Furstenberg launched the DVF Awards to honor female leaders.

“I became the woman I wanted to be.”

References:

  • Picture: Ed Kavishe, Fashion Wire Press.
  • Adrienne Pasquarelli, “Diane von Furstenberg, Liz Claiborne: designer greats, different fates,” Crain’s New York Business, 27 November 2011 (http://www.crainsnewyork.com/article/20111127/SUB/311279978).
  • Diane Von Furstenberg, Diane: A Signature Life (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1998).
  • www.dvf.com.