WASHINGTON — What was the best thing that happened to Diane von Furstenberg in 2016?
Visiting the new National Museum of African-American History and Culture here.
“I was really floored,” she told fashion critic Robin Givhan at The Washington Post Thursday night in a talk about her life and career.
As the head of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, von Furstenberg sends a letter to the fashion community before every season.
One of her strongest admonishments to her peers has been the promotion of “diversity. This is what this country is about. This is what we have to embrace, more than ever.”
A friend and supporter of Hillary Clinton, DVF said she wants to take her support of women’s issues to the next level, especially as she approaches her 70th birthday.
“I’m going to use my voice and connect the other people with voice to help those with no voice. I want to help women be the woman they want to be without buying anything,” she explained, adding that she’s created an e-mail server, firstname.lastname@example.org, which will keep those registered up-to-date on her plans.
“I did work for Hillary, and I made some speeches for her. I used to say that if she won, every woman in the world would feel three inches taller, and it didn’t happen. It’s a little awkward for women. It’s not about whining, and it’s not about demonstrating necessarily, but making sure that every woman is in charge of herself.”
She was recently quoted by WWD suggesting that her fellow fashion designers should work with Melania Trump, despite some of their misgivings.
Givhan asked her to clarify her statement.
“Any first lady should be respected. I think the role of fashion is to go about beauty and diversity. I was trying to be diplomatic. The feedback was very funny. Some people congratulated me. They understood me one way, and others got upset and understood me another way. Clearly it wasn’t that diplomatic,” she said.
“I think as first lady you should represent America. I’m not saying you should only wear American, but if you can, it makes sense.”
After a career spanning several decades, von Furstenberg explained she’s “embracing” life as an elder stateswoman in the industry.
“Every age is something else. I divide the life of woman in three parts: development, until you’re about 35, and then between 35 and 55, is enjoyment, and after that is fulfillment. I love to give advice to young people.”
What does she tell the new crop of designers?
“Get close to the person who actually manufactures. Because the person who manufactures is the person who has the most incentive for you to succeed.”
Earlier this year DVF installed Jonathan Saunders as chief creative officer of her company.
“I always said I have a son, a daughter, and a brand. I want to make sure my brand is in good hands,” she explained when Givhan asked if she would ever step completely away from the business.
Despite the frigid climes, many of the young women in the audience wore a wrap dress, the legacy of the DVF brand.
Her signature dress is still a source of pride and, interestingly, humor for von Furstenberg.
“It’s a dress that people remember. Tina Brown told me she met her husband in a wrap dress, and people say their children were conceived in a wrap dress. When you wear the dress, you get the man, but his mother doesn’t mind. It’s kind of sensual but proper.”