On Second Thought offers iconic subjects the rare chance to revisit an interview from our archives, and reckon with the good and the bad of it. In this edition, Diane von Furstenberg, the legendary fashion designer and champion of women revisits the afternoon she was interviewed for her 1977 cover story (the first of two) while fielding calls and questions from her assistants. On another busy afternoon earlier this spring, von Furstenberg revisited—and revised—what she’d said.
DIANE VON FURSTENBERG: Ara [Gallant, the photographer who took the portrait the cover was based on] was like a bat—he used to work at night, very late. The first pictures we took were with my hair very straight, but then he was like, ‘I want you to try something.’ So he wets my hair, and takes a picture of it drying. Of course, I had never shown myself with curly hair, so I was freaking out. But from the moment he showed me this picture, I kept my hair curly. It was a turning point.
DVF: A typical day. This morning i had a breakfast at Bonwit’s for about a hundred women; then after that I came back here, we’re going to have a product meeting soon; after that I’m going, from four to six—Tatiana [DVF’s daughter-Ed.] is six today, so she has a birthday party—we have Cinderella; after that I’m working till about eight, and then at eight I’m flying down to Miami—I’m going around Miami tomorrow to promote the book. Yesterday I was in Washington all day; last week I was in Minneapolis and Chicago, the week before in California.
DVF: This feels like it could be today—except I’m certainly busier now than back then. At this time, I had just become the woman I wanted to be. I was independent, successful, and free.
BC: Art Nouveau’s very expensive now, isn’t it?
DVF: Well, you can still find some… anything that is Victorian, Napoleon III, Art Nouveau, I love. The turn of the century. Ah, it’s so beautiful, my Gerome, you wouldn’t believe it.
BC: Will that be for your new apartment? How’s that coming.
DVF: Oh, it’s great. It’s going to be fabulous.
BC: And Francoise de la Renta is doing that?
DVF: Yeah. She’s helping me. It’s going to be great. It’s going to be really comfortable and totally informal, you know, not stiff, so I can have people in all the time, but very informally—because that’s my life, you know. I spend most of my time in front of the television, eating on a tray.
DVF: I don’t collect Art Nouveau anymore, but I still have those paintings. I still have everything. But I don’t remember watching that much television back then.
BC: What I see you eventually doing is politics. Can you see yourself doing that?
DVF: Well, after I’m established in everything. I really want to go ingot something that’s not profitable.
BC: Politics isn’t.
DVF: Well, either that or charity, but I really want to do things that are not for money. I’d like to do that.
DVF: I’m glad I don’t sound too much like a brat.
MV: Did someone once tell you you were going to die soon, at an early age?
MV: It’s not true. I had a dream about that. It’s very strange. You’ll live till you’re 80 or 90.
DVF: I certainly hope so.
MV: Well, I do too. But in the dream, someone said you’ll live to eighty-something.
DVF: Who said I wasn’t going to live long?
MV: It was in a dream. But did someone once tell you that?
DVF: Oh, I always thought I was going to die very early. I didn’t think I’d make 30.
DVF: “I don’t know why I thought I wasn’t going to live past 30. I guess I don’t like surprises, so I feel like if I talk about my death it won’t take me by surprise.”
DVF: What about Japan? I’m kind of taken care of; the American embassy’s giving a party for me and all that, but maybe you know… all right.. OK… Bye.
DVF: “It’s funny, because a few weeks ago they had a party for me in the American embassy in Paris. I don’t know if you know, but I’m the godmother of the Statue of Liberty, so they had a party for me so I could thank all of the French people who raised money to give the statue to the American people.”
Assistant: Diane? Michael Vollbracht’s [Bloomingdale’s Illustrator-Ed.] stopped by. Would you talk to him for a second?
DVF: Tell him to com in. OK, so what do you wan to do?
BC: Just ask some questions.
“You know my assistant from back then, she’s working with me now. Ellen. She moved to Paris, had three kids, and then came back.”