“I love to give advice, and I love to be the oracle, and at my age, it’s completely allowed,” said Diane von Furstenberg, speaking with William Norwich about her new book, “Own It: The Secret to Life.”
Published by Phaidon, the book is a collection of words to live by and will be released March 8 on International Women’s Day. Norwich is the commissioning editor for fashion and interior design at Phaidon.
The 74-year-old designer explained that people have always asked her whom she dresses, and her reply has always been the woman in charge. “To be in charge is not an aggressive statement. It’s really owning who you are and being your best friend. The most important relationship in life is the one you have with yourself,” she said. She said that once you have that, every relationship is a plus. “The secret is really ‘owning it.’ If you own your imperfections, they become your assets. If you own your vulnerability, it becomes your strength,” she said.
The 168-page paperback is a guide to “owning it, and owning it is the secret to life,” said von Furstenberg.
Von Furstenberg started writing the book as “one big prose,” but became very frustrated and felt it sounded too condescending. Then she had the idea to turn it into a dictionary, and she chose 250 words that she liked, and some she doesn’t like, and wrote little definitions. “Then COVID-19 happened and confinement, and all of a sudden, this book that was supposed to be a book of advice and was supposed to be fun and on the verge of frivolous, became much more serious because we were all in confinement, and everyone’s reflecting,” she said.
Organized in an A-to-Z format, each word offers DVF’s advice with her personal stories and experiences. Among some of the words are alone, attention, awareness, authenticity, advocacy, adventure, bed, character, compassion, effortless, empathy, family, fame, feet, glamour, greed, insecurity, love, luck, provocative and vulnerability.
Take “alone,” for example. DVF writes: “Being alone is not being lonely, it is being whole. It is where we find our strength and our full potential. Being alone is the best way to reboot.” Or vulnerability. “When we understand our vulnerability is an asset and an inspiration to others, and a source of strength, everything changes. It’s no longer a negative, vulnerability becomes a positive.”
Asked by an audience member if this is a self-help book, DVF, ever the marketer, said, “It’s definitely a self-help guide, but it’s a great gift. It feels uplifting in a serious way, in a deep way and in a way that makes you strong. When you read it, you understand you have the keys and you are in charge, and being honest to yourself, and that is the key.”
DVF was asked by an audience member what practical advice she has for those in business and how “owning it” has helped her in her working life.
“During the pandemic, everybody had to reassess. It’s been really, really hard on everyone for business. I had to make a lot of decisions to close a lot of stores and separate from a lot of people who have been working for me. It was a difficult decision and I had no choice. But owning it, the minute you deal with it, the difficulty is still there, but you’re just facing it. Everybody goes up and down,” said von Furstenberg.
She described the most challenging lesson she experienced in “owning it.”
“I’ve had cancer, I’ve had failures. You go through life and it’s not a bed of roses. I’ve had a wonderful life, a colorful life and a successful life with a lot of difficulties and challenges. It’s the challenges that make you grow. Sometimes people think you’re at the top and you’re not really, in the same way, people think you’re at the bottom, and you know you’re already getting out of it. It’s all about the relationship you have with yourself and it is the most important relationship in life. And that’s what builds your character. In order to have a good relationship with yourself, you have to own reality, whatever that reality is at the time,” she said.
She said the book is not about being a role model, but giving people a mirror to look at themselves. What has surprised her the most is how young women have related to the book.
A lover of words, von Furstenberg said she needs them for manifestation. Her mother always taught her to use the correct words and that words have energy and power. “Once you put anything into a word and throw it in the universe, it has power. The power of words is very, very important,” she said.
FOR MORE STORIES: