"It's a big bore to be always going out. But we wouldn't have the chance to meet the top people if we weren't part of that scene." -- Prince Egon von Furstenberg, 1973
"I'd rather work than do anything at home. I hate to cook, hate to do housework. It is totally ungratifying." -- Diane von Furstenberg, 1973
"I'm always at home at night. I have a family and lots of friends. On weekends I cook for them all. I am a family person. That surprises me. I never thought I would be such a Jewish mother, but I love that." -- diane von Furstenberg, September 1980
"I am going to stay in business until my picture is on the cover of Fortune magazine." -- Diane von Furstenberg, 1973
"Poor Wilhelmina [the former fashion model and model agency head]. She was on the cover of Fortune magazine and then she was dead. It is no longer a goal for me." -- Diane von Furstenberg, September 1980
They were packaged and presented as New York's Glory Couple: rich, young, attractive, sexually adventuresome and legitimately titled. Prince Egon von Furstenberg and his Princess Diane. They were invited everywhere, and they went. They titillated. They were envied. The couple that had everything, proclaimed a New York magazine cover story in 1973, memorable for its quotes on their sex life. "The most marketable female in fashion," trumpeted Newsweek in a 1976 cover story. Thirty million dollars on one wrap dress alone.
People called it "my DVF." Everyone wore one. They were the uniform at the 1976 political conventions. College girls wore them to parties. Secretaries wore them to work and dinner. Finally everyone had enough, except the stores, discounters and warehouses which had far, far too much in stock. A grave crisis for the princess of fashion.
But no fear. The princess did not go to the poorhouse. She licensed her dress line, sold off her jewelry business, kept her perfume line she had created and settled down to reconstruct her life. Her business volume, which also includes cosmetics and luggage, may reach $200 million by the end of the year. A tireless promoter, she appears in her own ads and Tv commercials.
Her personal life is another story. Compared with her frenzied social whirl with Egon (they have long been separated but remain friendly), she claims a more ordered, meaningful life. "The social life that was written about was not what is seemed," she says. "A lot of it was to cover up my own sores, my own vulnerability. I am tougher now though I appeared tougher then. I'm a different person now because I have accumulated more experience, more feelings, more knowledge, more mistakes.
"I've grown up."
Yet she adds, a few breaths later: "I have many men in my love life. Husband, best boyfriend." And lots more. "I get infatuated, I get carried away. It can happen anywhere. I like men who are fun, young, good-looking men. We need men. I love men." The Riptides of Fortune
The Diane von Furstenberg story is a high-glitter saga of appetite recognized, fulfilled and discarded in favor of new appetites. From her marriage to Prince Egon (she was Jewish and pregnant, his aristocratic Prussian family was furious), to her high society days, to her current technicolor profile on a million television screens, Diane von Furstenberg has been a totem of chic and its sorrows. She is older now and her wisdom is very '80s: more basic, more relaxed but still riding the riptides of fortune.
She is sitting straight up on the edge of the back seat of the long black limousine taking her to Woodies' Fair Oaks Mall store to promote her new sportswear. At first glance she looks exactly the same -- lean, darkly attractive, sexy. The knee poking through the slit in her skirt. The blouse suggestively open, but not revealing.
But there are differences. At 33, she is not the same perfect, high-gloss package. She looks older than her age, as she always has. But the hair is more naturally wavy, less perfectly placed. "I don't go to the hairdresser at all now," she says. The nails are short, and as she talks she plays with a blemish on her face. "I have to indulge myself. I could put on false nails but I wouldn't dream of it, even though I sell nail polish.
"Who wants to be perfect?"
She was hardly perfect as part of the Glory Couple, she professes now. "I was frightened and I really hurt. I had a fear that it would seem that I was a fool. If my husband was fooling around, I would rather say, Oh, blah, blah, blah than be caught as the miserable wife. It's much easier for me to say things now and have them appear because it doesn't matter that much. I am not so scared of my imperfection."
She was 26 when the New York magazine piece was written. "I was married to Egon. Everyone invited us. But we were 'playing' us." She was not happy, but she glossed over that then. "By the age of 24 we had two children and I was 'playing' mother. Then all of a sudden you realize that you are no more playing but that you are a mother, you are an adult."
As a child she always played grown-up. "I pretended that I was older and that I knew everything and that I wasn't shocked. Then one day you just don't pretend and it is there." And she wasn't ready.
The New York magazine article was a turning point for her. "When I first read it I didn't mind and I don't mind now.I said it but it reflected no necessarily what I was but what I said." She says the piece was very revealing in what it told about herself.
The self-confidence and independence came from her mother, she says. "She pushed my independence. And there is no question that I am the answer to a lot of her frustrations. You always are the answer to a lot of your mother's frustrations." Her mother was in German concentration camps, including Auschwitz, for 14 months. When she came out she weighed 44 pounds. She survived because of her attitude. Her mother's vision of those camps "was always the positive side, the wonderful friendships," says Von Furstenberg.
Born in Brussels to confortable, middle-class parents, Von Furstenberg was packed off to finishing schools in Europe at age 13 when her parents divorced. While studying economics at the University of Geneva, she met Egon, whose title is 12th-century Prussian and whose money is from Fiat through his mother, Clara Agnelli Nuvoletti.
She directed her discomfort, her nervousness with her husband's family and friends, into a fashion business based on a couple of dresses made in a factory near Como, Italy. and when the glamor couple went to New York, she unpacked the dresses, showed them to the social-cum-fashion types they played with, particularly fashion doyenne Diana Vreeland, and parlayed those styles into a huge success. "I was a success story with not much substance backing it up. It was all blown up because I came out with the right product at the right time. But there was only that and not much backing it up beyond my being very enthusiastic and hyping it up.
"I was lucky to have the difficult time when I was young."
With that instant, first success came the El Morocco, Studio 54-social side of her life. "Who can look back when they were 23, 24, 25, 26, even last year, and not say, 'Oh, how silly.' When you don't see it in the perspective of your life, it is important and seems like the whole universe."
She borrows a French phrase to say that things are going much better now. "I feel I fit more in my skin," she says. "Things fit in. My nose fits better. Somehow it is all more harmonious." She pauses."I don't want to get caught again as a caricature of myself." The Family Package
Von Furstenberg lowers her voice as the limousine swings off the Beltway. Barely audible, she says she "languishes for the kind of relationship that was Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre."
Well, one of these days anyway.
"Today I am not ready for a full commitment to a man," she adds, quickly. "When I am ready to do that I will say, 'This is it.' I want to stay with you for the rest of my life. Right now I am still growing up and I am not quite sure."
So, along the way, there have been many relationship.
There is Egon, to whom she is still married."I like it that way. It means I can't get married again."
There is her "best boyfriend," Barry Diller, board chairman of Paramount Pictures, with whom she has gone out for five years but does not live with.
There is Olivier Gelbsmann, the head of her design studio, who she says is like a brother.
And lots more. She can't seem to avoid men.
In Chicago, for instance. She was there promoting her clothes and watching the television news when she saw Maury Povich, whom she had met on the "Panorama" show in Washington. He was a "great guy, very attractive and fun," she remembered, so she called him. Indeed, he remembered her, and said he's take her to dinner when she finished a radio interview.
She waited and waited, but he never came. He had fallen asleep he said in a note that arrived with flowers the next morning.
Later, he called her in California and arranged dinner again. But while they were having drinks at her hotel, another man called, and she told Maury he had to leave. "I guess I got even," she says, laughing.
As for her affairs, she says, "I have a lot less guilt than I ever did. I think you have to give more than you get and that way you don't have the guilt about getting."
She would not like to live without a man, or men, she says, but she wants a relationship on her terms. "Women should not leave themselves in a position to be taken advantage of. Women should be involved, have their own lives."
In contrast to her out-every-night Glory Couple era, Von Furstenberg says she is now home every night with the children -- her son, Alexandre, 10, and daughter, Tatiana, a year younger.
"Without my children I would not be a very attractive person," she says. "They are the best side of me. I was supposed to leave them in the country when I went to see my mother in Europe, then to Japan for business and on to Bali for a holiday. I just looked at them and said, 'Guess what. I'm taking you with me.' I didn't have to worry about them back home. Alexandre would take care of the luggage, Tatiana would help pack.
"They both get wonderful school reports. He wants to go to Harvard. She writes poetry . . . Nothing can equal those satisfactions."
So instead of going out all the time she has lots of friends over and she does the cooking. Or course, she adds, it's not easy to bring men into her life. "I can be a big package. If someone is interested in me, unfortunately I come with a full family, a superlush apartment, an office with a terrace and a view of Central Park. It is a lot for a man to take. A lot for a man to still feel superior."
But she manages.
She says that what saves her is that she is not afraid to show her human side, her blemishes. "Who wants to be a superwoman? Let yourself go. Cry a little . . . and show your weakness."
It's the same in her relationship with her son. "If I was the image many think I am, my son would not be the way he is. He sees me with all my imperfections and that allows him to be a man."
Now, about Bali.
"I'm in love with what Bali did to me. It made me very free of everything. The sky is so big, the nature so lush. It is all about giving, all about offering and as a result the island is very rich. It is like this chocolate cake with slices and slices of surprises and richness. Like an orgy of beauty. So you become very small when you see everything so beautiful."
And next month she will take off from work for three weeks.
"Bali is coming here," she says. Three-Part Formula
Diana Von Furstenberg, the label, is revving up again. "I don't want a shortrange thing in my business," she says. "The business provides me with the financial independence that has a lot to do with my freedom."
After women overdosed on the DVF wrap jersey dress and the company was stuck with a monumental quantity of dead inventory, Von Furstenberg says her business colleagues fell apart. But, even to her own surprise, she proved to be the strong one, faced all the problems and solved them. She displayed a combative spirit and, more importantly, know-how.
But women have changed and so have their clothing needs. One dress won't do anymore. Before, a woman was a pink polyester dress type or a kilt-and-sweater type and would stick to that kind of clothing. Today, there is more flexibility. "Today you have an appointment and this is what you want to project, and so this is how I want to dress," she says. "And at night you want to be someone else. You don't want to scare him so you want to be different. We need to be versatile and the clothes need to be versatile."
She has this patter down cold (as well as all conversation about her $15-million perfume business), but speaking about her cosmetics she gets steamed up, talking much faster. "I came in from lunch one day a year and a half ago and said, 'Hot Pink!' I never thought in my life I would wear pink. It was so Doris Day. But it sold, and the whole industry changed. It gave me confidence."
She's developed the products, the names, the packaging, even the product coding and training manual, she says proudly. She grouped colors by mood: Pink is fun, flirtatious, playful; red is authority, love, eroticism; the browns are the naturals. She calls one brown eyeshadow "Back Seat Brown."
Next is a treatment line developed for three stages of life that she defines as: development, enjoyment, fulfillment. Development is to age 35 -- when you prepare, have your first job, make your investment in yourself. Then, to age 50 or 55, you enjoy the seeds you planted. After that, the fulfillment, serenity. ("All of the things you aim for at the end of your life are lonely paths, things you have to get by yourself," she says, adding, "I may have that attitude because I don't want to be disappointed.")
Surely, she is now in the enjoyment phase of her personal life. But not in her business life.
"I'm in the development stage for 18 more months, until I am 35. Then I expect all of the things will start to show. That is the time I have given myself."
And if it doesn't?
"So what," she says with a huge smile. "No one will know but me."