Diane von Furstenberg

If it weren’t so popular, Diane von Furstenberg’s wrap dress could be enshrined as a feminist artifact. The designer said the dress empowers women; it empowered her, paying all her bills and allowing her to be free. The dress is also a symbol of sexual freedom for many women, since it has no zippers and is easy to remove.

Von Furstenberg spoke about feminism on the eve of the four-day event she’s hosting in celebration of International Women’s Day, DVF x IWD, which begins on Wednesday. She pointed to Frances McDormand at the recent Academy Awards ceremony, where upon winning an Oscar for her lead role in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri,” the actress asked all the female nominees in the audience to stand. “Look around, everybody, because we all have stories to tell and projects we need financed,” the actress said.

“This is the fourth year in a row that I’ve done a lunch to honor the female Oscar nominees,” von Furstenberg said. “Everyone is involved in #TimesUp and everyone is concerned. The movement has been unleashed.”

Now that the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements have been let out of the genie’s bottle, women are speaking out in record numbers, and no one is predicting they’ll stop any time soon. Von Furstenberg, through the People’s Voice Awards, has tried to sustain the voices that fight for other women. The designer is revealing today the four nominees competing for $50,000 at the ninth annual DVF Awards on April 13. Voting will be open to the public starting on March 7.

“We’ve changed people’s lives,” von Furstenberg said. “We get recommendations all of the time, and collect names all year long. The real reason we created the People’s Voice is it allows us to give exposure to four candidates. The most important thing for them is exposure and money. These are people who had the courage to survive. They went through the most difficult things themselves.”

Erin Loos Cutraro is the founder and chief executive officer of She Should Run, a leading nonpartisan organization that works to increase the number of women running for office in the U.S. Since its founding in 2011, nearly 40,000 women have been encouraged to run for office through She Should Run’s efforts. The organization’s goal is to get 250,000 women running for office by 2030.

Luma Mufleh is the inspirational ceo and founding director of Fugees Family Inc., a nonprofit organization that helps children of refugees through soccer, education and community. “It’s about empowering refugee children and helping them successfully integrate into the U.S.,” von Furstenberg said.

Laura Hackney and Jessica Hubley are cofounders of AnnieCannons, a non-governmental organization that works to retrain survivors of human trafficking to become software professionals. “Laura and Jessica transform survivors of human trafficking,” von Furstenberg said. “There’s still so much of it and it’s so hard to break free of it.

“Georgie Smith launched A Sense of Home, an L.A. nonprofit that creates homes, community and new beginnings for foster youth after they age-out of the foster system,” von Furstenberg said, adding, “All these people would fall through cracks.”

The designer launched #InCharge on Twitter to urge women to take charge of their bodies, careers and lives.

“I’ve always celebrated International Women’s Day,” von Furstenberg said. “In Europe, it’s an old tradition. This time, I wanted to create a happening, not just for one day, but for four days. We’re starting ‘Taking Charge: Building the Life You Want.'” The first panel of the event, moderated by CNN news anchor Brooke Baldwin, will feature von Furstenberg; actress and activist Sophia Bush; psychotherapist Esther Perel, and Prune Nourry, a multidisciplinary artist.

Other panels feature women authors and entrepreneurs, and a talk titled “The Greatest Generation: How Young Women Might Solve Everything” has two student survivors and activists from Parkland High School. “The Crown Princess of Norway will talk about generosity,” said von Furstenberg, who is opening her headquarters in the Meatpacking District for the first time to the public for the events.

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