Diane von Furstenberg Shares The Career Advice Of A Lifetime

Fashion designer, Diane von Furstenberg first shot to fame after designing the iconic wrap dress in the 1970s. Now she runs her global fashion company, which spans over 70 countries.

Von Furstenberg's mother first inspired her career ambition, teaching her at a young age that "fear is not an option". This advice has served von Furstenberg because despite her success, she says that she has dealt with many failures throughout her career.  

At the age of 70, von Furstenberg says she is in "the third act of her life." Her work now is focused on inspiring and celebrating women as leaders. She is also paying it forward through the establishment of the DVF Awards, which recognizes individuals who advance women’s causes.

 

Von Furstenberg candidly shares her career insights, setbacks and the importance of facing challenges head on.   

Michelle King: How important is it to have a vision for your career?

Diane Von Furstenberg: I didn’t know what I wanted to do. But the only thing I knew is that I wanted to be in charge of my life. I wanted to be a woman who did not need anyone, who could pay for her bills. That woman who wasn’t waiting for the Prince Charming. I did not know what I wanted, but I knew the kind of woman I wanted to be. I became that woman through that dress.

King: What does your vision of ‘being the women you want to be’ mean to you?   

Von Furstenberg: I always used to say that phrase and I said it not ever thinking about it. And one day I was having dinner with Oprah and I said that to her and she said, ‘oh my god that is so great’ and that’s why I called my book that.

For me I was able to be the woman I wanted to be so my goal is to tell all women that they can be the woman they want to be. Through my clothes and through my fashion company. But I want to be able to do that without women having to pay anything. Because the strength and the confidence is within herself.

King: What career advice do you have for millennial women trying to advance at work?

Von Furstenberg: The chances are when you begin your life, you don’t know what you want to do. I certainly didn’t know. Then you have doors to meet people and they are doors that come in front of you. I want to remind people that it is not always the most glamorous door that will be your door. I certainly had no idea that working for a man in a factory in Italy was going to be my door. Yet I owe that man everything.

King: Why do you think women lack confidence and how can they overcome this?

Von Furstenberg: What makes me the saddest is how insecure women are and they really don’t have to be. That’s why I love mentoring, speaking to women and dressing women because I want to push their button of strength. Because I have never met a women who is not strong. They don’t exist.

Very often because of a father, a brother or a religion but mostly themselves. They don’t want to show their strength. Or we want a man to feel strong, then you forget it and you lose your strength. Then there is a tragedy and it is always the woman who saves it. It is always a woman’s strength that comes up. So my advice is don’t be afraid to show your strength and don’t wait for a tragedy to do that.

 

King: In business, have you ever had fears you have had to overcome? How have you done that?

Von Furstenberg: I don't know that I have had fears but I have had many failures... you just have to accept these and not be delusional. The most important thing is that whatever you have to deal with, just deal with it. Don't be delusional and pretend it is not there.

King: You are about to host your 8th DVF Awards focusing on women leaders. How important is it for women to own their achievements?

Von Furstenberg: All of us are inspiring.  I meet these women (at the DVF Awards) and I feel like such a loser, like I have done nothing with my life. The amount of work that they do. The amount of things they have survived and not only have they survived, but then they help other people. It is just incredible. So it is very important to be able to talk to one another and get inspired by one another.

To inspire confidence is the best gift you can give anybody. This has become my flag. To give women confidence is what I would like to be remembered for...