Success stories can seem just as fantastical as the fairy tales you (may have) loved growing up: Bold career woman finds herself in the right place at the right time, and poof, her
fairy godmother mentor snaps her fingers, transforming our hero into an overnight success who brings home a 7-figure salary, jet-sets the world spreading her you-can-have-it-all gospel, all while looking awesome and Instagramming the whole thing. Umm...really? Why do we so rarely hear the other side of the story — the false starts, the waves of doubt, the failures, and the fuck-ups? Those late-night worries and, occasionally, breakthroughs that are so relatable to the rest of us?
Introducing Self-Made, Refinery29's newest column spotlighting the real stories that fueled success — the wins, the fails, and the curveballs —proving there's no one path to getting what you want.
Since launching her eponymous ready-to-wear label in 1972 with a now signature wrap dress, designer Diane von Furstenberg made it (quite literally) her business to empower women. After she sold five million wrap dresses, von Furstenberg became a face of women's liberation. And like the Belgian-American designer told The New York Times in 1977: "The minute I knew I was about to be [Prince] Egon's wife, I decided to have a career. I wanted to be someone of my own, and not just a plain little girl who got married beyond her desserts."
Not one to rest on her laurels, early last year, DVF launched MasterClass, a series of videos aimed at empowering designers, and now, on the first day of New York Fashion Week, Diane hosted a lunch for her network of female CEO’s and founders to ignite and continue the imperative conversations surrounding being a Woman In-Charge in today’s world.
Refinery29 talked with Diane von Furstenberg about how the designer was able to pivot in a changing industry, what it actually means to be in-charge, and the one skill she still hopes to master.
What were your career goals when you were younger? Did you ever imagine you'd be a designer?
When I was a little girl I did not know what I wanted to do but I knew the kind of woman I wanted to be; I wanted to be a woman InCharge.
DVF the brand was founded in 1972 and it has evolved so much over time. Who is the DVF woman today?
I dress the woman who’s InCharge of her destiny, her mood and her career through clothing that becomes the friends in your closet. They’re the pieces you can always reach for, know they’ll look beautifully effortless on and ensue confidence. That’s how the wrap dress has remained so relevant and timeless all these years later.
What does it mean to you to be in charge of your destiny?
In reflecting upon it, to be InCharge today is the commitment you have to yourself and the ownership we as women need to obtain of who we are from our age and our bodies to the wins and losses in our lives and everything in between. It builds character to take ownership of our being and I want to start a movement and create a platform that brings women together to encourage this journey towards being InCharge. To be InCharge means to design your own life and therefore are able to identify as self-made. It’s a continuous effort to greet life’s unexpected challenges with a clear mind, confidence and especially to never forget who you are and what you’re capable of.
You create pieces that intentionally empower women and you did it before it was cool. How are you able to maintain the brand’s DNA as fashion evolves?
The hardest thing in life is continuing to stay true to who you are and that goes for creativity as well. Through my career I’ve gone through countless ups and downs but I’ve never forgotten who I am. The brand’s DNA stays true because I stay true to myself.
Tell us a lesson you keep trying to learn, that you hope to eventually master, business or otherwise?
I definitely have my moments of feeling less than but I work to master my trick of taking a moment to look at yourself in the mirror and remember my worth because if you doubt your power, you give power to your doubt.