Diane Von Furstenberg is a unique kind of warrior. She has achieved great success in the world, but her focus remains on the personal, psychological success of every woman.
Is Diane a feminist, then? Is she a profound liberal? Again, she is unique, and therefore, one cannot assess her life and work in conventional ways. She has been associated with grand dames of feminism, but, that image does not dominate her public image at all.
First of all, she was never supposed to be born into the world. Her mother, Liliane Nahmias, was a Holocaust survivor, and greatly affected by physical suffering. Liliane was told that she could never have a child. Yet, she bore Diane Simone Michelle Halfin into the world on December 31, 1946.
Diane married German royalty in 1969, Egon von Furstenberg, and immediately decided she must earn her own identity. “I wanted to be someone of my own, and not just a plain little girl who got married beyond her desserts,” she recalled. Diane was a model herself, and became a world famous fashion designer. She went from dress design, to perfume, to accessories, to interior design. (I expected politics as the next logical step, but, Diane has never volunteered any formal association.)
At this point, Diane Von Furstenberg (DVF) has the most spectacular web site on the internet. It is an exciting adventure, to be sure. There is a special “time line” on which one can view her career and accomplishements, beginning in 1971. The 1976 point displays that famous Newsweek cover of Diane and her famous “wrap dress.” She is the author of several books, Book of Beauty (1979); a triology of rituals known as The Bed (1991), The Bath (1993), and The Table (1996), and A Signature Life (1998). One of the captivating things about the site is its alluring simplicity. It is actually very complex, and contains infinitely more than appears on the surface.
Diane Von Furstenberg, the seasoned philosopher, at the
Women’s Forum Global Meeting, 2009.
Diane is an international philanthropist, to be sure. And, it is pure philanthropy, not political. This is what we mean by “quiet warrior.” There is a fundamental feeling she has for uplifting people that is quite apart from the political process. Her idea of social reform seems to have its foundation in the idea that the woman should value herself. It is almost as if to say, the secret of the world’s well being is in the woman’s attitude about herself. Diane may associate with various “liberal” causes in the world, but, there’s something merely utile about that. Her real gift to the world is that special focus on the woman’s attitude about being a woman. Causes of the world are only avenues of expression.
“I have yet to meet a woman who is not strong. They don’t exist. Everyone woman is strong. Sometimes they don’t show it, because of where they live, because of a father, a brother, a husband, or because of circumstances. But when things get bad, all of a sudden, the strength comes out.”
Diane went on to say that women must be confident. Through fashion itself, Diane purposed to inspire confidence. The whole fashion career was only a tool–through which she might share confidence with other women. She would create clothes that would
make women feel confident and beautiful.
When a woman is confident, she is beautiful.
This is the Von Furstenberg philosophy in a word. This is the attitude on which civilization is built. This is the earthly mortar.
But, let’s say it so a man can understand it. A woman wants to be beautiful. A woman wants to be desired. That’s all. She wants a man to be enthralled with her. She wants to be loved.
It is ironic that, women who wield the most power to attract are often the most removed from real love. They are isolated by the expanse of their draw. The more men who are enslaved by their singular beauty, the less confidence they have in any individual man’s sincerety. This is an agonal irony, but a price to be paid for publicized sexual appeal.
Of course, fashion is for all, so this predicament is unavoidable. The final decision for true love is based in fact not on the strerngth of the attraction, but on the “confidence” in sincerety. That sincerety is something that has to be demonstrated over time. And it’s more than a convincing record of performance. There is a certain feeling that dominates. Even when circumstances have crumbled the ediface, and what’s left stands on moral principle alone, the feeling yet lives in the ruins. The pillars of memory and experience stand forever.
Personally, a woman simply navigates the contest of desire. In the case of Diane Von Furstenberg, we have a woman of original and classic beauty, but one who always managed it with an objectivity and purpose–a purpose of compassion. This is far beyond feminism, or any political attempts at improving anything. This is philosophy–in action. Diane is Jewish, don’t forget. That transcendence is uniquely manifested in her use of fashion design. The idea is to be confident, independent, and thus free.
Yes, most people see fashion as a loud, fast lane, noisey whirlwind of dizzying egotism, but, in the hands of Diane, it is a humanitarian opportunity. She has made it something it never was before. Diane transformed fashion into something functional, beyond entertainment. For Diane, fashion is a ‘teachable moment.” Fashion is virtually didactice. She is a pedagogue of female performance.
This is a little esoteric for men, but, it is important to know that women have a voice within their own issues that presents them with perhaps the most innocuous, salubrious solution to their natural frustrations. Where Diane Von Furstenberg fits into social modernity is the place she made for herself–but that place is open to any woman who may benefit from it. She did it for them, as well as herself. If there is “liberalism” in Diane Von Furstenberg, is it a transcendent order, and would never bother with the writhing of political process.
A quiet warrior, that is Diane von Furstenberg. A world conqueror, but, one whose personality remains as simple, confident, and sweet as a newborn lamb. Arrogance is absent. This is evident in her immediate personality, should you have the pleasure of meeting her. Beyond the dazzle, beyond the captivation, Diane is a simple, caring woman, who cares particularly for women who struggle to understand themselves, who don’t quite think well enough of themselves.
And, I’d say, any woman who can make something like fashion into a functional tool in social reform has to be one strong woman. Any woman who can turn female confidence into world philanthropy has to be Jewish! In the hands of a sincere Jew, anything can be made into an instrument of uplifting. In Diane’s philosophy, every woman is destined for fellowship with the zaddokim. And she can wear a dress while she’s at it. (Move over, Yentl!)
Diane Von Furstenburg, 1972.