“The most important thing a young designer can do is offer a product that has value,” Diane von Furstenberg told a packed house of students and devout DVF fans last night at the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, where the CFDA president was holding a lecture in concurrence with the museum’s current exhibition Impact: Fifty Years of the CFDA. The show, which includes rare archival pieces spanning half a century, from a 1958 Traina-Norell dress and matching coat (gifted by Lauren Bacall) to an original DVF wrap ensemble, inspired von Furstenberg to recount her own career beginnings.
“In 1970, dresses were so stiff they would stand by themselves,” recalled the CFDA president. “I made these flimsy little jersey dresses that no one understood, but they were comfortable.”
As usual, Ms. von Furstenberg’s words were peppered with coveted tips on fashion industry survival. How to finance your start-up? Find a factory that believes in you. Don’t have a showroom? Sell online. “The Internet has changed everything,” said von Furstenberg. “Today it’s easier for an emerging designer because you have a universal audience the minute you start.” To that end, the CFDA’s latest venture, the China Exchange program, will help install American designers abroad and cultivate Chinese talent stateside. “I’m excited about anything that has to do with China,” von Furstenberg told Style.com. “It’s an old civilization that suddenly discovered this new world of luxury—the speed of the growth is fascinating.”
Before turning to business abroad, Ms. von Furstenberg will attend to matters at home—the grandmother of three just received news that she’s expecting a fourth grandchild. “I’m going to spend a fortune on that one,” admitted the designer, whose GapKids capsule collection hits stores later this month. When asked what she plans to gift the lucky newborn, she responded, “I haven’t bought anything yet; I’m very superstitious.”