DVF dazzles the Union in an intimate affair

They don’t make people like Diane von Furstenberg anymore.

business DVF fashion feminisim lifestyle The Cambridge Union Society

She manages to be both welcoming and intimidating, out of touch and with perspective, a cold-hearted business mogul who is truly inspiring.

Me with some extremely photogenic women

Me with some extremely photogenic women

I didn’t want to like Von Furstenberg. I had taken a look at her Wikipedia page and she seemed to fit exactly the kind of ‘fashion matriarch’ stereotype that ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ and ‘The Incredibles’ are poking fun at.

Her entrance and the beginning of her speech did little to change my mind. In she came, with a smile that I expect she had picked out of a catalogue in a Californian waiting room, followed by her team of beautiful twenty-somethings, who were doing all of her stressing for her. One of them even looked like Emily Blunt.

Devil wears Diane

Devil wears Diane

Von Furstenberg’s natural charisma began to really show when she ran out of the routine and regular stories. ‘I have no idea why it’s so popular’ she said of her perennially popular wrap dress. ‘A lot of women tell me they seduced their husbands or even conceived their children in it’. The chamber giggled. ‘Maybe it’s because they open at the front’. It erupted. The dress’ success seems to have more to do with how women feel in it, rather than the way they look in it. ‘As I became more confident in my own person, I started to sell confidence with my dresses’, Diane says of her younger self, and maintains today that she tries to make clothes who ‘become your best friend in the closet.’

Almost all of DVF’s answers boiled down to her ethos: ‘The most important relationship you have is with yourself’. She explicitly told us that she got into fashion purely because she wanted to be financially independent. She didn’t go to Central St. Martins, she did half an economics degree and work experience in a factory. Her dresses cost £200, which when compared to the big Parisian and Milanese fashion houses’ £2,000 dresses explains her mainstream popularity. She’s a business woman of the highest order, whose product just happens to be fashion.

When asked about Islamic fashion, she responds: ‘If there’s a market for it, why not?’ and her response to a question about what she would tell her 22 year old self is ‘have a business plan, it’s pointless being creative without one’.

The iconic 'wrap dress'

The iconic ‘wrap dress’

On feminism she is a little shaky. ‘Make use of what you have as a woman’ and ‘show a little skin’ are her recommendations for how to combat sexism in the workplace. The implication that this is the only route to female empowerment is at least contentious, if not a little outdated. On ‘super skinny’ legislation she thinks ‘the government has more important things to do’ and instead offers reassurance that ‘Kendall is super serious and unhappy’ and ‘those girls were all bullied for looking weird and being too tall at school’.

At the same time, she makes a real effort to have a sense of perspective, explaining that she has never really faced much sexism herself in her career: ‘I have always been my own boss in an industry that accepts women’. She qualifies the comment by saying that we should be more concerned with greater issues like human trafficking, adding ‘objectification is not really our biggest problem’.

‘You look like my first husband Egon did when I married him’ she said to me as I stood up from my chair at the end of the interview.

DVF with first husband Prince Egon von Furstenberg - I'll take it as a compliment

DVF with first husband Prince Egon von Furstenberg – I’ll take it as a compliment

They don’t make people like her anymore, but that’s not just a line, nor is it a woman that I’m likely to forget.