Q&A with Diane von Furstenberg: Still passionate about fashion

01/16/2012 12:00 AM

01/15/2012 2:35 PM

American women probably all owe designer Diane von Furstenberg a thank-you note. After all, she liberated them from boxy suits in the 1970s with her iconic wrap dress, makes it possible for them to wear prints without looking like sofas, and helps vault young designers into the public eye as president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA).

But at 64, she’s not slowing her invariably high-heeled pace. Last year, she launched a DVF home collection bearing her trademark prints, and this fall, she debuted a new fragrance, Diane.

Q: What does Diane the perfume smell like?

A: Delicious! I have nothing more personal to offer. It’s got frangipane, which is very clean and optimistic, and violet, which is different and very discreet. It’s very yin and yang.

Q: Why do you think fragrance appeals to women so much?

A: Perfume has been a weapon for women since antiquity! It’s a super-important accessory.

Q: You are known for prints. What’s the secret to doing them but not making them frumpy?

A: I teach my designers to make prints with movement. It’s like an animal! Deer, fish, leopards have movements when they walk, and I think that’s key. For spring, I did them inspired by modern Africa.

Q: What’s it been like heading up the CFDA?

A: It’s been wonderful, because I like the idea of giving back, teaching things and giving away your knowledge.

Q: You launched a home collection last year. Has that been hard to design?

A: It comes naturally to me, because it’s all about prints, colors and living comfortably in this non-formal chic. I think the pieces look bohemian, like things you’ve bought all over the world.

Q: You dress women of a variety of ages. Did you ever expect that would be the case?

A: It’s funny. When I was in my early 20s and I designed the wrap dress, my mother, who was in her 40s, wore it. And now I’m a grandmother, and I see them in the showroom and I think, ‘What a dress, I would buy that!’ It’s kind of a dress for the beginning of your life, but it works later, too.

Q: How do you keeping dressing well as you age?

A: There are some things I can no longer wear, but I think the most important thing in life is to be confident, to be who you are and the best that you can be. I just try for practical and effortlessly chic.

Q: What keeps you going after decades in the business?

A: I am still so passionate about what I do. I’m empowering women by making them look beautiful. That keeps me relevant and gives my life a purpose. It’s a nice feeling!

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