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Diane: A Signature Life: My Adventures in Fashion, Business, and Life

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Diane is the frank and compelling story of an extraordinary woman and her adventures in fashion, business, and life. "Most fairy tales end with the girl marrying the prince. That's where mine began", says Diane Von Furstenberg. She didn't have to work, but she did. She lived the American Dream before she was thirty, building a multimillion-dollar fashion empire while raisi Diane is the frank and compelling story of an extraordinary woman and her adventures in fashion, business, and life. "Most fairy tales end with the girl marrying the prince. That's where mine began", says Diane Von Furstenberg. She didn't have to work, but she did. She lived the American Dream before she was thirty, building a multimillion-dollar fashion empire while raising two children and living life in the fast lane. Von Furstenberg's wrap dress, a cultural phenomenon in the seventies, hangs in the Smithsonian Institution. "No one was making a little bourgeois dress, so I did," she told Newsweek in her 1976 cover story. The dress achieved such popularity that in the five years it was on the market, Diane sold more than five million of them. Her entry into the beauty business in 1979 was as serendipitous and as successful. Diane learned her trade in the trenches, crisscrossing the country to make personal appearances at department stores, selling her dresses and cosmetics. "As I was learning to be a woman and enjoying being one, I was sharing my discoveries, designing for my needs, and making a business of it", she writes. That business had its ups and downs. Eventually, there was so much demand for and exposure of the dress that the market became saturated; on the verge of bankruptcy, she licensed that part of the business, focusing on her fragrance and beauty products. Von Furstenberg's personal world unraveled a bit in 1980 when her mother, Lily, a survivor of Auschwitz, had a breakdown. Diane of course knew about her mother's experience in the camps, though her mother had never wanted to dwell on it. She understood that her own need for freedom came from her mother's lack of it, and that her resilience derived from her mother's life lesson to always turn a negative into a positive. Leaving the glitz of Manhattan and the music of Studio 54 behind, Diane escaped to Bali with her children, returning inspired and renewed. With all of this energy, the cosmetics business flourished. But it grew so fast that in 1983 she found herself undercapitalized and was forced to sell. In 1985, having given up control of her brand to licensees and with her children away at school, Diane turned her back on America and packed for Paris. She spent four years in her new role as part of the literary scene there, trading in her spike heels for flat shoes and tweed. In 1990, she found she missed the chase and returned to New York to regain control of her name and relaunch her company. Frustrated by the degraded status of her brand and dismissed by the retail community, she searched for a new way to reconnect with her customers. She found it through the revolutionary new medium of teleshopping and once again became a success. However, she still wanted to return to retail. In 1997, as the wrap dress was making a comeback with the nostalgia for the seventies, Von Furstenberg, with the help of her beautiful daughter-in-law, Alexandra, redesigned the dress for the nineties and made her name relevant to a whole new generation. Now, at fifty, Diane works to make sense of the contradictions in her life: glamour vs. hard work, European vs. American, daughter of a Holocaust survivor vs. wife of an Austro-Italian prince, mother vs. entrepreneur, lover vs. tycoon. She emerges wiser, stronger, and ever more determined never to sacrifice her passion for life.


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Diane is the frank and compelling story of an extraordinary woman and her adventures in fashion, business, and life. "Most fairy tales end with the girl marrying the prince. That's where mine began", says Diane Von Furstenberg. She didn't have to work, but she did. She lived the American Dream before she was thirty, building a multimillion-dollar fashion empire while raisi Diane is the frank and compelling story of an extraordinary woman and her adventures in fashion, business, and life. "Most fairy tales end with the girl marrying the prince. That's where mine began", says Diane Von Furstenberg. She didn't have to work, but she did. She lived the American Dream before she was thirty, building a multimillion-dollar fashion empire while raising two children and living life in the fast lane. Von Furstenberg's wrap dress, a cultural phenomenon in the seventies, hangs in the Smithsonian Institution. "No one was making a little bourgeois dress, so I did," she told Newsweek in her 1976 cover story. The dress achieved such popularity that in the five years it was on the market, Diane sold more than five million of them. Her entry into the beauty business in 1979 was as serendipitous and as successful. Diane learned her trade in the trenches, crisscrossing the country to make personal appearances at department stores, selling her dresses and cosmetics. "As I was learning to be a woman and enjoying being one, I was sharing my discoveries, designing for my needs, and making a business of it", she writes. That business had its ups and downs. Eventually, there was so much demand for and exposure of the dress that the market became saturated; on the verge of bankruptcy, she licensed that part of the business, focusing on her fragrance and beauty products. Von Furstenberg's personal world unraveled a bit in 1980 when her mother, Lily, a survivor of Auschwitz, had a breakdown. Diane of course knew about her mother's experience in the camps, though her mother had never wanted to dwell on it. She understood that her own need for freedom came from her mother's lack of it, and that her resilience derived from her mother's life lesson to always turn a negative into a positive. Leaving the glitz of Manhattan and the music of Studio 54 behind, Diane escaped to Bali with her children, returning inspired and renewed. With all of this energy, the cosmetics business flourished. But it grew so fast that in 1983 she found herself undercapitalized and was forced to sell. In 1985, having given up control of her brand to licensees and with her children away at school, Diane turned her back on America and packed for Paris. She spent four years in her new role as part of the literary scene there, trading in her spike heels for flat shoes and tweed. In 1990, she found she missed the chase and returned to New York to regain control of her name and relaunch her company. Frustrated by the degraded status of her brand and dismissed by the retail community, she searched for a new way to reconnect with her customers. She found it through the revolutionary new medium of teleshopping and once again became a success. However, she still wanted to return to retail. In 1997, as the wrap dress was making a comeback with the nostalgia for the seventies, Von Furstenberg, with the help of her beautiful daughter-in-law, Alexandra, redesigned the dress for the nineties and made her name relevant to a whole new generation. Now, at fifty, Diane works to make sense of the contradictions in her life: glamour vs. hard work, European vs. American, daughter of a Holocaust survivor vs. wife of an Austro-Italian prince, mother vs. entrepreneur, lover vs. tycoon. She emerges wiser, stronger, and ever more determined never to sacrifice her passion for life.

30 review for Diane: A Signature Life: My Adventures in Fashion, Business, and Life

  1. 4 out of 5

    Gabrielle Adams

    I received this book through a work-subsidized women in business group, and in the introduction to this book, Ms Furstenburg expresses her hope that readers will be inspired by her account, so my expectations were perhaps misguided when I began reading this book. Inspiration for what, I wonder? To be born and marry into enormous privilege? To launch an entrepreneurial career that, despite lack of polish or preparation, succeeds due to elitist connections and a readymade public persona? The synop I received this book through a work-subsidized women in business group, and in the introduction to this book, Ms Furstenburg expresses her hope that readers will be inspired by her account, so my expectations were perhaps misguided when I began reading this book. Inspiration for what, I wonder? To be born and marry into enormous privilege? To launch an entrepreneurial career that, despite lack of polish or preparation, succeeds due to elitist connections and a readymade public persona? The synopsis of the book is frank, though, that DVF's success in large part issues from her utterly un-relatable upbringing attending European boarding schools, marrying into rich royalty, attending fabulous parties, and living the life of a widely known socialite. The book reads like a catalogue of name dropping and self congratulatory anecdotes of her success, determination, and irresistability. If she reproaches herself at all in the book, it's for not pushing hard enough on her business partners when, invariably, they were wrong and she was right. While I'm here for Diane's account of her unending fabulosity, this is not a business inspiration book. This is an underscoring of the number #1 way to succeed in America: be born into privilege. Diane...she's just like us! Selected quotes: "My year in Spain was a lonely one...the only acquaintance I made was with a young man...who...I think, though I'm not 100 percent sure, that his name was Felipe Gonzalez Marquez, the man who would become prime minister of Spain in 1982...In contrast to the austerity of my life in Madrid, all of a sudden I was in the midst of all these people who all seemed to know one another and to be effortlessly beautiful and rich. The actress Natalie Wood was part of the group. So was Vladi, a colossal Venezuelan man of Yugoslav origin who fell in love with me [natch] and gave me my first silk Emilio Pucci shirt." (even by accident, my friends are powerful and in love with me!) "I met Egon later that year at a nightclub in Geneva named Griffin. I wasn't particularly attracted to this handsome blond young man, whose proper German name and title were Prince Eduard Egon von und zu Furstenburg." (I'm so fabulous I had to be wooed by this rich, handsome prince.) "Many European newspapers covered our wedding, as did Women's Wear Daily and Vogue...After a short honeymoon sailing the fjords of Norway, Egon and I went to a little house on Sardinia's Costa Smeralda that his mother had bought us as a wedding present." (so sweet!) "For my thirtieth birthday, I had given myself a beautiful sixteen-room family apartment on Fifth Avenue that had belonged to Rodman Rockefeller, Nelson's son." (you know, the tycoon? that's how rich I am.) "Whenever I need an icon to mark a beginning or a turning point, I buy myself a piece of jewelry. Which is why, soon after the sales to Beecham, I went to [a] prestigious antiques store and bought [list of valuable antique items]...a gesture of appreciation from me to myself." (Because, you know, I'm fabulous.) "When I bought Cloudwalk [her sweeping Connecticut estate - fancy enough to merit a name like Cloudwalk] only twelve years later, it would be largely because of the trees i could see through the car windows and the river rimming the lawn. I gave the startled agent a deposit of $10,000 without even walking the grounds and never regretted it." (samesies!) "During the height of the winter season in New York, we averaged four invitations a night, mostly from people we'd never met. I remember having dinner with Salvador Dali and his wife the dark and petite Gala, at the St Regis Hotel and with the Duke and Dutchess of Windsor at the Waldorf Towers. The duke and dutchess were very elegant and perfectly pleasant but did not impress me very much." (the humanity!) "A great deal of psychology went into the makeup sessions. The trick was to figure out what image and mood a woman wanted to project. If she were a housewife and I sensed she led a fairly dull life..." (Housewives are DULL.) on her dalliances: "Ryan [O'Neal] was very handsome and very hot from his roles in Love Story...and...Paper Moon. I was a nervous wreck about having dinner with such a famous superstar....nonetheless, he took me home after dinner to the Beverly Wilshire, where I was staying." (hee) "I found myself hosting a party in New York City to introduce [Jerry Brown] to influential New Yorkers, such as Barbara Walters, Diana Ross, and Felix Rohatyn, the investment banker who was trying to save the city from bankruptcy....the next morning my name was on the front page of The New York Times...It seems...extraordinary to me....that I had enough poise and self-assurance as a twenty-nine-year-old foreign girl [her being a rich, connected socialite notwithstanding] to introduce a candidate for the presidency to these New York luminaries [aka her bosom buddies]. Not only did I find him extremely attractive, I was very intrigued by his life....Jerry and I became friends...I also went with him to the Democratic National Convention in New York. As he counted his votes, I counted the number of my dresses on the delegates. I may have had more dresses than he had votes. My personal relationship with Jerry was never more than a flirtation, really." (I can be as dismissive of partners as I am of housewives!) "There were lots of flirtations in my life at the time....Jann Wenner had all the Rolling Stone covers hanging in the lobby of his floor below mine..., and I used to tease him about how many flings I had had with his cover subjects....Seduction was very much part of my mood at the time." (Diane always gets what she wants.) on business strategy: "I knew absolutely nothing about the business about cosmetics, I just loved the idea. So did a French friend of mine...who had just arrived in New York from Paris with her husband and new baby and was looking for something to do....We had no plan, no thought of anything concrete....we were venturing into this huge industry on instinct, drive, and nerve." (starting businesses is easy! you don't even have to know how! just want it real bad.) "If Sears was investing so heavily in home design, why not make pretty homes? And why shouldn't I do it? I was dressing so many American women, I reasoned, I might as well designed their homes." (I believe this is called specious reasoning.) Anywho, the sheer ridiculosity aside, I did enjoy the read for what it was, and I appreciated her, albeit brief, revelations of her family psychology and occasional struggles. And who can blame Ms von Furstenburg for being self-involved and smug - I would be, too!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Meghan

    Want to hear about all her famous "good" and "dear" friends?! Then this is the book for you Want to hear about all her famous "good" and "dear" friends?! Then this is the book for you

  3. 4 out of 5

    Kathleen Sams

    I read this book quickly and enjoyed it, but felt a bit puzzled by the author. Diane was an amazing success in her 20s and reinvented her business as she approached her 50s, after damaging her brand's reputation through licensing deals. She thanks her first husband, Prince Egon Von Furstenberg, for the name and connections that helped her launch her dress business. I know that she worked very hard and connected with women, which made them want her products, but she comes across as naive about bu I read this book quickly and enjoyed it, but felt a bit puzzled by the author. Diane was an amazing success in her 20s and reinvented her business as she approached her 50s, after damaging her brand's reputation through licensing deals. She thanks her first husband, Prince Egon Von Furstenberg, for the name and connections that helped her launch her dress business. I know that she worked very hard and connected with women, which made them want her products, but she comes across as naive about business. Perhaps she is. Many creative people lack the business skills necessary to be successful. However, all her business deals seem to work out in the end. She also seems naive about relationships - even admitting that the men she loved treated her better after the relationships ended. Von Furstenberg doesn't dwell on negativity - the bad business deals, the love affairs that seemed so wrong, and her experience with cancer. Everything turns out okay. Unlike many women, she never expresses guilt about working and spending so much time away from home and even carves out time for lovers and nights at Studio 54. The book seemed to gloss over all hardships, which was problematic for me even though the author writes in the beginning, "If I don't dwell on the unhappy feelings, it is because that is my process. In all circumstances, I always look for the light and build around it, with little memory of pain." Perhaps her positive attitude makes her a role model for women: she lives life on her own terms and doesn't dwell on the negatives in life.

  4. 4 out of 5

    antonella litta

    La autobiografia di una donna molto forte e creativa che ha vissuto la vita fino in fondo . L’ultima parte dedicata ai successi lavorativi è molto noiosa e troppo autocelebrativa, in contrasto con i primi due terzi del libro dove con uno stile appassionato la stilista ha raccontato la storia della sua famiglia e dei suoi amori.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Amanda

    I love reading memoirs, mainly because memoirs are not bios, but the stories the author wants to tell. Naturally, memoirs are usually happier endings, better memories and more outrageous stories. This one is by Diane von Furstenberg. Her wrap dress and shirt dress made her a fashion icon and she details how she got to live out the American dream. She was born in Belgium in 1946 (same year as my mom!) and she is the daughter of an Holocaust survivor. Her parents split and she ended up spending tim I love reading memoirs, mainly because memoirs are not bios, but the stories the author wants to tell. Naturally, memoirs are usually happier endings, better memories and more outrageous stories. This one is by Diane von Furstenberg. Her wrap dress and shirt dress made her a fashion icon and she details how she got to live out the American dream. She was born in Belgium in 1946 (same year as my mom!) and she is the daughter of an Holocaust survivor. Her parents split and she ended up spending time in Paris but longing to come to America. After marrying Prince von Furstenberg, she did just that, bringing with her samples of her wrap dress and shirt dress. She is the "immigrant-done-good" story to a T, even if she was a Princess. Diane describes her rise to the top of the fashion world, but does go into how she fell out of it and ended up selling off her name in the form of licenses. She made some bad (naive) decisions but clearly she came back pretty well. There's quite a bit of name dropping in this book as well as detailed travel trips. You really never feel sorry for her, even when things start going badly, because her version of bad is definitely not mine. When things are bad for me, I can't jet off to Bali and pick up a man. Or, at least, I haven't tried that.... Fun background for any reader who likes their fashion stories.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    I remembered seeing magazines in the 60's with pictures of Studio 54 with Halston, Truman Capote, Liza Minelli and Diane Von Furstenberg. I always thought her exotic looks and mysterious accent were fascinating. This book covers her life from childhood to 1997 in a very open way. From her mother's survival of the Nazi death camps, to Diane's European upbringing, one theme remains; independence. Her mother quotes the writer LaFontaine who said, " Help thyself; Heaven will help Thee." It is fascin I remembered seeing magazines in the 60's with pictures of Studio 54 with Halston, Truman Capote, Liza Minelli and Diane Von Furstenberg. I always thought her exotic looks and mysterious accent were fascinating. This book covers her life from childhood to 1997 in a very open way. From her mother's survival of the Nazi death camps, to Diane's European upbringing, one theme remains; independence. Her mother quotes the writer LaFontaine who said, " Help thyself; Heaven will help Thee." It is fascinating to see how instinctively she built her brand and knew what her customers wanted. With all her need for self-reliance, it is surprising to even her how many times she loses herself to please the man she is in love with. I look forward to reading her most recent book that shows how she has become the woman she dreampt of being. Quick read and fun insight to the fashion world. Her iconic wrap dress was inspired by a skirt and separate wrap blouse she saw Julie Nixon wear. She was her best model and is still a beautuful classy woman.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Maria

    I love DVF and everything she & the brand she has (re)built stand for. I can't believe it took me so long to read her autobiography. She describes in the foreword the fact that she shares very little about her very personal life. That enigma quality remains through the book. You learn a lot, but not quite everything. However I like that. She really has lived an extraordinary life, experienced so much, taken risks, loved deeply, been hurt, stayed true to herself (or what she thought was herself a I love DVF and everything she & the brand she has (re)built stand for. I can't believe it took me so long to read her autobiography. She describes in the foreword the fact that she shares very little about her very personal life. That enigma quality remains through the book. You learn a lot, but not quite everything. However I like that. She really has lived an extraordinary life, experienced so much, taken risks, loved deeply, been hurt, stayed true to herself (or what she thought was herself at that time) emerging better and better with each life experience, whether personal or in business. I'm a very loyal fan of her clothing line for a long time now and I suspect I will continue to be. It is a book for women. Read it if you love what she stands for.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Phair

    This ended up being something of a trip down memory lane as DVF is around the same age as I , although she certainly traveled in much loftier circles. Still, the many cultural and historical references she included brought back all sorts of recollections. Not the best memoir I've read as there is a bit too much name-dropping and 'just the facts, ma'am' style. I'd have like a little more introspection and depth of observation. She made some good points about her fashion and business philosophy a This ended up being something of a trip down memory lane as DVF is around the same age as I , although she certainly traveled in much loftier circles. Still, the many cultural and historical references she included brought back all sorts of recollections. Not the best memoir I've read as there is a bit too much name-dropping and 'just the facts, ma'am' style. I'd have like a little more introspection and depth of observation. She made some good points about her fashion and business philosophy and the way the fashion climate changed over the decades of her rise and fall and rise again.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Claribelle Van

    DIane's style of writing is very matter of fact and very rarely does she ever elaborate from an emotional standpoint. Though it was interesting to read about her journey, the book itself wasn't particularly engaging. I read this as part of a women in business book club assignment and would have chosen something else had it been up to me. DIane's style of writing is very matter of fact and very rarely does she ever elaborate from an emotional standpoint. Though it was interesting to read about her journey, the book itself wasn't particularly engaging. I read this as part of a women in business book club assignment and would have chosen something else had it been up to me.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Megan Whitaker

    Hard to say what I thought of this book - ultimately I think it is decent as a business book. Her journey in business is one of significant highs and lows over a number of decades and I admire her drive and nous. As a person, Diane can come across a bit removed from the real world and self absorbed - whether she is like that in real life I can't say. Hard to say what I thought of this book - ultimately I think it is decent as a business book. Her journey in business is one of significant highs and lows over a number of decades and I admire her drive and nous. As a person, Diane can come across a bit removed from the real world and self absorbed - whether she is like that in real life I can't say.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Christina Boyle

    I am huge fan of DVF for multiple reasons (creativity, risk taking, business acumen, confidence) but I have to say learning more about her life story was a tiny bit shocking and I am not sure it was positive. I still consider her a great female role model though. I am excited to hear her speak in January 2011 at the 92Y. Her most outstanding attribute is her bold confidence.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Kayleigh Burke

    I would recommend this book to anyone who loves reading about successful women and who loves fashion. She has led such an exciting life and is very inspiring. I do have to add though that it also enforces my belief that success is usually something that is largely luck and the circumstances you are born into, even if you do work hard once you have them.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Margaret

    Diane has been an inspiration since I was a child. A real princess who came to America with a trunk full of dresses and revolutionized the way that women dress. "Feel like a woman wear a dress" Diane is truly incredible and this book is only a piece of her story. Could not put it down! Diane has been an inspiration since I was a child. A real princess who came to America with a trunk full of dresses and revolutionized the way that women dress. "Feel like a woman wear a dress" Diane is truly incredible and this book is only a piece of her story. Could not put it down!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Julie

    Interesting read about a fashionista and the originator of the wrap dress. Definitely not a tell all kind of book, but shared alot about marketing, licensing and the ups and downs of the fashion industry.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Victoria

    An interesting autobiography on a strong and fabulous woman. She has lead the most extraordinary life, creating the wrap-dress & an empire...marrying a prince, battling cancer. Decent read if you are interested in fashion...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jessica

    This is a fairly light read about well-known fashion icon Diane Von Furstenberg. It's a story of determination, hard-work, and drive... she definately didn't just "land" in her current spot. I always enjoy a book about a woman rising to the top. Kudos to her! This is a fairly light read about well-known fashion icon Diane Von Furstenberg. It's a story of determination, hard-work, and drive... she definately didn't just "land" in her current spot. I always enjoy a book about a woman rising to the top. Kudos to her!

  17. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl Booze

    An amazing story of an amazing woman and a prolific fashion designer.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    This woman is made me a little crazy while reading this. But at least she experienced what she wanted almost exactly when she wanted to. To live your life with such access to influential people...

  19. 5 out of 5

    Alicia

    life changing book. best book of all time.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    Loved this book- business, fashion, high society,

  21. 5 out of 5

    Natalia Quintero

    An honest memoir of DVF's life on what it's like to be a princess, a socialite, and modern business woman. Very factual and engaging but at times monotonous. An honest memoir of DVF's life on what it's like to be a princess, a socialite, and modern business woman. Very factual and engaging but at times monotonous.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    Very interesting read. I didn't realize that she had lived more adventures by the age of 27 than most people do in a lifetime. Very interesting read. I didn't realize that she had lived more adventures by the age of 27 than most people do in a lifetime.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Megan

  24. 5 out of 5

    Charlotte

  25. 4 out of 5

    Patricia

  26. 5 out of 5

    Leyla

  27. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

  28. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

  29. 5 out of 5

    Summer Douglass

  30. 4 out of 5

    Tiffany Davis

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