Diane von Fürstenberg may have been a princess, but it’s her work in fashion, bringing comfort and style to working women, that made her an icon. Diane’s signature wrap dress transformed the way women dressed, and ultimately made her into one of the most successful designers in our time.
The designer was born in Brussels, Belgium on New Year’s Eve in 1946. Diane grew up in a comfortable home with her parents Leon and Liliane Nahmias Halfin. Liana survived after being held at a Nazi concentration camp during World War II and raised Diane to be confident and not succumb to fear. Diane attended finishing schools in Spain, England and Switzerland and attended Madrid University before transferring to the University of Geneva in 1966 to study economics.
Falling in Love and Becoming a Princess
At the University of Geneva, Diane met Prince Eduard Egon von Furstenberg, a German socialite and aristocrat who was heir to the Fiat fortune. The two fell in love and married in 1969. That same year, the couple moved to New York City. Despite the fact that Diane was now a princess and really had no need to work, she was determined to not be defined by simply her title and state. In a 1977 interview with the New York Times, Diane said, "The minute I knew I was about to be 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.”
And that she did.
Diane’s Career and the Creation of her Iconic Wrap Dress
With little experience, Diane began working on a clothing line from her dining room table in her Park Avenue apartment. By 1970, she was already showing her first collection and just two years later the designer had her own manufacturing business. But, it was in 1974 when Diane introduced her iconic, jersey knit “wrap” dress, which launched her clothing line and career to be featured on the front of well known and respected publications like Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal. The dress changed women's apparel in the office by presenting a comfortable and adaptable wardrobe solution that could be worn in and outside of the office. Soon she launched her own perfume line too.
Unfortunately, Diane’s personal life began crumbling at the same time her career took off. She and her husband separated in 1975 and ultimately divorced in 1983. Facing financial troubles, Diane moved to Paris where she established a French publishing house. Along the way she started several other businesses in cosmetics and in the early 1990s sold Silk Assets on the QVC shopping channel, a sale that helped her move back to the U.S. and eventually relaunch her company in 1997.
Diane’s perseverance and determination to contribute influenced how half of the workforce has dressed for decades. She’s also shared her story by publishing an autobiography and memoirs and she continues to give back to others. Diane serves as the director of The Diller - von Fürstenberg Family Foundation, which supports nonprofits helping to provide community building, arts and education, human rights and more.