News & Runway



AP Fashion Writer, New York

Diane von Furstenberg, a Belgian-born, Swiss-educated New Yorker, brought her jet-setter look to Italy in June, staging a fashion show in Florence that showed off her bonafide global style.

Usually June is when men’s fashion gets attention in Florence at the Pitti Immagine trade show, but the event’s organizers were looking to incorporate more womenswear.

"You know me, I don’t think twice when people ask me to do something. I didn’t think much about this one until I realized I had to bring everything–girl models–everything!" von Furstenberg says with a laugh.

Von Furstenberg, 61, has a full plate these days: Her brand, which put wrap dresses in the closets of millions of women in the 1970s, relaunched her company in 1997. It has since grown to include swimwear, fragrance, luggage and accessories.

Von Furstenberg herself is the president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and she’s married to media mogul Barry Diller, has two grown children and three grandchildren.

This busy lifestyle is just the way she likes it, Von Furstenberg says from the rooftop pied-a-terre above her studio in Manhattan’s Meatpacking District. Her bedroom and connecting bath are completely serene, with wispy white fabrics, dark woods, floor-to-ceiling windows and a slight African motif.

"I rarely sleep more than five nights in the same bed," she says.

Von Furstenberg speaks French, English, Italian and Spanish fluently, and can get by in Russian, German and Portuguese. She’d like to tackle Chinese. "The word `global’ is not foreign to me," she says.

She has used trips to Africa, Russia and the Silk Road to China as inspirations for recent collections. She’s also an efficient packer, who tries not to buy too many souvenirs.

"I always say, `If you can figure out your suitcase, you can figure out your life,’" von Furstenberg says. "I can go to five cities and not buy anything but I take hundreds of pictures."

This summer’s vacation will be on the family yacht, visiting Croatia, Montenegro and Turkey. She’d also like to revisit India and Japan and in the near future visit Sweden, Hungary, Mongolia and Vietnam–places she’s never been.

Von Furstenberg no longer thinks about clothes in the traditional four seasons because air travel, global warming and high-powered air conditioners mean you’ll probably need to wear a sweater and a tank top at some point on the same day no matter where you are and what the forecast is.

The theme for the runway show in Italy was "La Petite Valise," which translates into "the little suitcase" in English. She describes it as "a little bit `Talented Mr. Ripley’–an American traveling abroad."

She’s separated the collection, which will appear in stores in the late fall, into the Bon Voyage group, which is heavy on the conversational prints _ including one based on her own passport stamps; the Hotel Life, based on Claridges Hotel in London with a bit of Wedgwood blue; and Venice, borrowing themes from the gondolas and canals.

"We as designers, we need a map of where to go with our collections," she says. "It usually comes from a book or travel."

Photos courtesy of the Fashion Spot forums.