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Photography by David Cortes
You moved into your new offices in 2008, but you've actually lived and worked in Manhattan's Meatpacking District for almost 20 years — first in a carriage house on West 12th Street and now in a new space a few blocks north, on Washington Street. What do you love about the area?
"I remember when I first moved my office here, my son thought I was crazy, but it has everything that is great about New York: the energy, the grit. I have loved watching it evolve. The High Line has made an incredible impact and is like a magical park in the sky. It is so close to all of the galleries, so there is incredible art…and with the Whitney coming soon, it is really an incredible place to live and work."
Your office is so iconic: It perfectly encapsulates the DVF attitude. How do you go about creating that environment?
"My office is filled with things I love: beautiful photos of people I love, beautiful things I have collected from all over the world, beautiful art my friends have created. If you surround yourself with things you love and that reflect who you are, then everything will make sense."
What is your most cherished item in your office?
"My desk. It was a gift from my father."
What is your work style like?
"Creative…but as much as I love to imagine, I love to make things happen."
That's an understatement — in addition to running a business and putting out multiple collections a year, you recently published a memoir. We love the title: The Woman I Wanted to Be. What kind of woman did you want to be as a young girl?
"I knew that I wanted to be independent. I wanted to be the kind of woman who could pay her own bills and make things happen on her own terms. Even when I was first married — to a prince, nonetheless — I was determined to have a career of my own and to have my own identity. That decision was very important, and it led to my becoming that woman earlier than I expected. We moved to America, and I sold my dresses and invented the wrap dress — it was very successful very fast, which made me very successful. It felt like I was living the American dream."
Were you interested in clothing growing up?
"As a young girl, I wasn’t really interested in fashion, but I was interested in being a grown-up, and I think fashion had a lot to do with that. By the time I had gone through boarding school, and when I was 20 and working in Paris, I had come to love fashion and use it as a way to express myself."
You've said that the wrap dress started as a top inspired by a ballerina sweater. Once you translated that concept to a dress, why do you think it became such an impactful piece of clothing for the modern woman?
"It looked like nothing on the rack, but when a woman put it on, something extraordinary happened. ...I didn’t really think of it as filling a void at the time, but that is exactly what it did. Everything in fashion was so complicated then; there were couture dresses that were beautiful to look at but that you could hardly move in. I wanted to design dresses that I could wear anywhere, and once I found that fabric — the silk jersey that was so flattering and so easy to wear — I knew I had found something great."