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NEW YORK — This fashion week will mark the last time Diane von Furstenberg will take her runway bow alongside creative director Nathan Jenden.
This story first appeared in the February 4, 2010 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
After the show, Jenden will leave the company to focus exclusively on his own collection, which he launched in 2006 and which is now sold in stores such as Louis Boston, Harrods and Matches in London, and Joyce in China.
“This show is really a celebration of Nathan and I, and of our collaboration,” von Furstenberg said in an exclusive interview. “It’s sad because we are going apart, even though we are staying close, and exciting because he is going to do his thing and focus on it.”
Late Wednesday, von Furstenberg revealed that Jenden will be succeeded by Yvan Mispelaere, who is perhaps best known as the designer who was a member of Phoebe Philo’s design team at Chloé and took a runway bow after her exit. He left Chloé to join Gucci as design director under creative director Frida Giannini in 2006.
Von Furstenberg and Jenden have worked together since 2001 — his first show for the label was on Sept. 9, 2001 — and she has made no qualms about shining some of the spotlight on Jenden — most notably at the end of every runway show, when he came out with the designer, and, a few steps behind her, clapping for her as she walked the full length of the runway. Jenden said the time was right to make the move, both for him and for his soon-to-be former employer.
“I have given so much of myself to Diane, and Diane has given so much of herself to me, and I felt I really wanted to concentrate on Nathan Jenden, and that it was important in my commitment to Diane to be honest about that,” he said. “Diane herself and DVF as a company are really important to me, and we built something together — a second generation — and it felt like it would be remiss of me to not be frank with Diane.”
Jenden was director of design for Daryl K. before joining von Furstenberg. There, he helped the designer reestablish herself in fashion, and von Furstenberg in turn helped Jenden make a name for himself in fashion circles.
“I felt like it is now or never,” he said. “These nine years have been a large part of my life. I am so proud of knowing her, and so proud of the journey we have taken together. When I first met Diane, not everybody knew her story. We have really developed the brand around Diane and her lifestyle and spirit of this woman. That brand is established now.
“From when I started doing my own line to now, the company has grown so much bigger,” Jenden added. “That’s what I will take with me, having watched Diane build it from something very small with one store to a company with 33 stores, and more opening.”
Von Furstenberg recalled their first encounter, when the young Brit made no qualms about his ambitions to have his own line. When he finally launched it four years ago, she didn’t miss a beat and invested in the business, which she will continue to do after Jenden leaves.
“I have an interest in his company and I have an interest in his future, and if he wants to show in New York, then I will help him as the president of the CFDA,” von Furstenberg said.
That should be music to the ears of Jenden, who admitted he is considering returning to New York to show his collection. Except for his launch collection, Jenden has been showing his line during London Fashion Week to allow him more time to prepare for his show.
“Nathan is someone who is part of the family, and will remain that way,” she said. “I always joke because he looks very much like Egon [von Furstenberg, her late former husband] when Egon was young. He was 29 when he came in. He has learned a lot, and he has grown a lot. It’s been a really fun ride.”
Jenden plans to go to London right after DVF’s show to prepare for his own fall show, followed by a trip to Paris to sell his collection. Now that he has the time to focus on his own line, he plans to expand his collection with his first resort season and build an accessories business. He already has a small sunglasses collection. For his part, he will always view von Furstenberg as something of a mentor.
“Diane has taught me so many different things,” Jenden added. “The most important thing Diane taught me is a talent for life, and how to live your life to the fullest, and how to maximize it…and to do it with a smile.”