Suffice to say, Diane von Fürstenberg isn't just a fashion icon—she's a human legend. Most of us know her as the woman behind the wrap dress, which she debuted in 1974 and later turned into an international fashion empire. She's had a scandalous love life—including a fleeting marriage to a prince—and she's frequently cited her mother, a Holocaust survivor, as being an influential part of her success. But there's plenty about DVF that most people don't know. Here are seven surprising tidbits:
1. HER MOTHER’S PARENTING TECHNIQUES WERE PARTICULARLY TOUGH.
Growing up with a mother who survived the Holocaust, Diane was destined to be resilient. In her memoir, The Woman I Wanted To Be, she describes her mother as “strict and somewhat distant.” From a young age, Diane learned to obey. If she did something wrong, she received a distasteful glare, a pinch, or a sentence to stare indefinitely at the wall. Though Diane believes her mother “wasn’t half as hard on [her brother],” she now knows her harsh expectations weren’t without purpose. She attributes her ability to speak in front of a crowd to her mother's demands that she give a speech at every family gathering, and her ability to travel alone from the train trip she took from Brussels to Paris at nine years old.
2. SHE RECEIVED HER COLLEGE DEGREE IN ECONOMICS.
Diane attended the University of Geneva where she studied Economics, but “never really got into it.” So when she met Egon Von Fürstenberg, the Austro-German Prince and heir to the Fiat automobile empire, it was an easy decision to quit the program, elope, and run off to New York City. Strangely enough, it wasn’t until Diane became an adult that she started to get into fashion. “As a young girl,” she said, “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.”
3. HER FIRST ATTEMPT IN THE FASHION INDUSTRY LEFT HER BANKRUPT.
With a $30,000 loan from her father, she opened her first collection on Seventh Avenue in 1972. Her wrap dress was an immediate success, launching Diane to fashion superstardom at just 28 years old. Although her fashion line was thriving, her marriage was not. Just two years before her wrap dress debuted in 1974, she and Egon separated. After her business fell through in 1978, and her divorce from Egon in 1983, she didn’t have much leftover. Here, she took a break from fashion and fled to Paris to get back on her feet.
4. SHE HAD TONGUE CANCER.
When she returned to New York in the ‘80s, the city had changed drastically from the sexual, fun-loving ‘70s. Desperate to regain her fashion line and make a name for herself once again, she worked as hard as she could but with little success. In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, she explained that this creative block is what caused her tongue cancer, “because [she] was unable to express herself.”
5. SHE'S HAD TWO VERY OPEN-MINDED MARRIAGES.
Diane has always had an open mind about sexuality. In her younger days, she experimented, tossing men left and right. “Zips are a nightmare," she once said. "Haven’t you ever tried to creep out of the room unnoticed the following morning? I’ve done that many times.” Sex was merely expendable titillation. Her track record includes a brief fling with actor Richard Gere, and—among other freely sexual adventures—a South American musician she met in Bali named Paulo, whom she described as handsome and tall, “with a brown beard, a green stone in one earlobe, and a sarong tied around his waist.”
Of the two
6. FOR HIS 59TH BIRTHDAY, SHE GIFTED HER SECOND HUSBAND AN IMPROMPTU MARRIAGE.
DVF and Barry Diller moments after saying "I do."
After keeping Diller in the friend zone for two decades, she finally “ran out of excuses.” It was Barry’s 59th birthday and she threw both him and her children a party (they all happen to be Aquarians.) She didn’t know what to give him, so she generously presented him with what he had been waiting twenty-six years for. “If you want," she told him nonchalantly, "I will marry you for your birthday.” A few hours later they said "I do" at City Hall with her children and brother as witnesses.
7. SHE’S THE PRESIDENT OF THE COUNCIL OF FASHION DESIGNERS OF AMERICA (CDFA), AND FIGHTS FOR HEALTHY BODIES ON THE RUNWAY.
She doesn’t just “sell confidence,” she
This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com.
* Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors.