i-Con: diane von furstenberg
Diane von Furstenberg shot to fame as a fashion designer in the 70s. Now Chairman of the CFDA, she’s leading the charge in fixing what she sees as a “broken” industry, by tailoring it towards the consumer. She’s a woman who does it all and is an i-Con...
Diane von Furstenberg is one of the world's most revered fashion designers. Migrating from her native Belgium to New York City in 1970, with a suitcase full of jersey in hand, Diane shot to fame with her now i-Conic "wrap dress". Revolutionising what workingwomen wore, by 1976, she had sold over one million dresses and even graced the cover of Newsweek. Not only do her elegant style and classic designs continue to inspire and empower women around the world, Diane has become a keen activist within the industry itself, championing everything from diversity to models' health. In 2005, she received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and a year later she was elected as their President. Now Chairman of the CFDA, Diane is currently leading the charge in fixing what she sees as a "broken" industry, by tailoring it towards the consumer.
How did you become involved with the CFDA?
In 98 the CFDA invited me to join the board. It was so gratifying, and made me feel like I belonged to a family. I was put on a committee to find a president. Then before I knew it, I became president! Now, working as the Chairman of the CFDA, I feel it is my duty to protect and foster the creativity of American fashion designers.
With Burberry, Tom Ford and Vetements taking the first tentative steps to shift their show cycle, how long do you think until the majority of brands show in this way?
I think we are at a turning point. We don't dictate industry-wide changes but are here to raise and discuss issues, and we are here to offer guidelines that help protect the creativity and support the businesses of our designers. Ultimately, each brand will do what is right for them and their customers.
Where do you think this shift leaves younger designers or smaller fashion houses?
I think it is helpful to tell young designers that a huge show may not be the best way to spend their money.
What is the relevance of the fashion show in today's cultural climate?
With social media and technology ouching every part of our lives, images of the shows get to consumers instantly. For many of our US consumers, it is frustrating for them as they cannot immediately shop what they see on the runway. Clearly we are at a point where the role of the fashion show has changed, and in this moment all the brands that I speak to are evaluating what its role will be for the consumer, and the industry.
If everything is consumer-focused, where does that leave artistry and creative expression?
Artistry is at the heart of our industry. These changes are not about making the shows consumer focused but making the shows relevant to the consumer.
What are the pros and cons of having this consumer-based drive?
There is an important difference between "consumer-based" and "consumer-relevant". By revisiting how we present our collections, we are re-connecting with consumers in a way that is relevant to their needs. We are not telling brands what to show and who to cater to, we are questioning the disconnect between what consumers see and when they have access.
Do you think that social media has had a negative or positive impact on the industry and how we consume clothes?
It's here to stay, it is not debatable. The reality is, we are in the age of the consumer. They have more access to information more instantaneously than ever before. This is an opportunity for our industry to explore how to better and more directly communicate with our consumers, our audience.
What do you think is the wider impact of fast fashion on things like the environment?
Everything is fast now... It just is. The industry must adapt to this new world.
If we have access to products as soon as they have been shown on the catwalk, how will that quench our ever-growing thirst for more?
It is all about giving women what they want, when they want it.
What do you think the industry will look like in 20 years?
Forget 20 years, in two it will be very different!
Text Tish Weinstock
Portrait Terry Richardson