The 20th century knows two outstanding women who revolutionised women’s wear. Gabrielle Bonheur “Coco” Chanel came up with The little black dress and Diane von Furstenberg made us all a gift of The Wrap Dress. Most recently, von Furstenberg used the powerful legacy she created to establish DVF Awards that honours trailblazing women. 

 

Once upon a time…

Diane von Furstenberg became “the women she wanted to be” early in her life. And It’s hard to abstain from comparing her life to a fairytale: she did, after all, marry a prince. The marriage did not last, but in her own words: “At 28 years old I already had two children, I already had made money, I was already successful. I was on the cover of Newsweek magazine and I was already separated and having fun.” She owed her success to the dress she created in 1974, at the age of 27. It was the iconic wrap dress that women instantly fell in love with. This dress came to symbolise power and independence for a generation of women and helped establish Diane as a legendary and crucial fixture in the industry. Unfortunately, any fairytale has its’ twists and turns, and soon after the soaring success, Diane saw her business decline. She moved to Paris, but felt too disconnected from fashion, her true calling. Upon her return to the States in 1997, Diane re-launched the business with renewed vitality. Her eponymous brand became the multimillion-dollar fashion empire it is today.

 

What inspired the DVF award?

“As I was getting more confidence, I was also sharing my confidence with other women through the dress. From the very, very beginning, it was this incredible dialogue with other women… an extraordinary adventure.” – Diane told the interviewer from The Guardian. Talking about the empire she built around her wrap dress, she said: “I have to make sure that I have carved into our DNA all the things that the dress stands for: empowerment, sexiness, effortlessness.” And that empire allowed Diane von Furstenberg to establish her DVF award. After Diane got involved in the Women in the World, Tina Brown’s conference, she decided to take advantage of that pool and launch her own award.

DVF award is given to recognise and support extraordinary women who are dedicated to transforming the lives of other women; women who have had the courage to fight, the power to survive, and the leadership to inspire. Each year five women are chosen and awarded a $50,000 grant to further their work in their respective communities by the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation. As pointed out by Diane, this Award is all about “using her voice and connecting the voices of other people to help the people who have no voices.” A noble mission indeed. One of 2017 Award Honorees, Yoani Sánchez, a journalist, has been kidnapped, arrested, and beaten for her work. But she is not deterred; she says the government wouldn’t react if they weren’t fearful that she’s tapped into popular demand for freedom of expression. Women like Yoani are the ones Diane von Furstenberg set out to honour and support: “All of these women who have gone through terrible things, then they turn around and they help others. They inspire me. I learned from them, I love them and I love the idea that in some ways I can use whatever I have to help them”

 

The women, making the world a better place…

The categories of the award are: The International Award, The Inspiration Award, The Lifetime Leadership Award and The People’s Voice Award. This year, at the 8th annual DVF Awards, the People’s Voice Award went to Louise Dubé, the Executive Director of iCivics, the largest and most successful civic education resource in the country. Other honourees included Yoani Sánchez, Founder & Director of 14ymedio; Baljeet Sandhu, the Founding Director of the Migrant & Refugee Children’s Legal Unit; Karlie Kloss, a supermodel and entrepreneur, who founded Kode With Klossy in 2015 to engage, empower, and prepare women and girls to learn code, while expanding access to coding education and opportunities; and Dr. Jane Goodall, recognised for her groundbreaking community-centered approach to conservation and development programs in Africa, and for Roots & Shoots, the global environmental and humanitarian youth program.

The DVF ultimate advice

At the age of 70, Diane says her life was so fulfilling she should be twice her age: “When you have an experience like mine, it is your duty to share it.” In the multitude of interviews she has done, Diane keeps getting the same question: What is your best advice to women? And she never fails to highlight the importance of being on good terms with yourself and staying strong. “The most important relationship you have in life is the one you have with yourself. And then after that, I’d say once you have that, it may be hard work, but you can actually design your life.”

In an industry so obsessed with the superficial, it is refreshing and inspiring to see a designer going beyond the creation of fashion pieces. Diane von Furstenberg, and the women she honours with the DVF Awards are undoubtedly the positive role models to look up to.

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