As Diane Von Furstenberg remembers it, women in the seventies had two certainties, and they had nothing to do with death and taxes. Rather, the two phenomenons they had grown to expect out of life were periods and sexual harassment.
The iconic designer, 70, gave a no-holds-barred talk at The Wing club last night in New York, reminiscing about her experience of womanhood throughout the past four decades, and explaining why it’s time for women to ‘take over’.
Diane, who rose to fame by inventing her cult wrap dress, delivered an empowering message, assuring the audience she wants her legacy to be for people to know they can be ‘the woman they want to be’.
Speaking out: Diane Von Furstenberg gave a no-holds-barred talk at The Wing club last night in New York, reminiscing about her experience of womanhood throughout the past four decades
A candid account: The iconic designer, 70, explained that back in the 1970s, women had two certainties—periods and sexual harassment
Asked about how sexual harassment has evolved between the 1970s and now she reminised: ‘[In the 1970s], you’d take it for granted that women have their periods and get groped.
‘That’s just what happens to women. You have your periods every month and men just do things that they shouldn’t be doing.
‘And, you know, you do the best you can. You push them away, bla bla bla, but it happens to everybody. I mean, there’s no one who doesn’t have a story. There’s no one. It just doesn’t happen.’
Reflecting on her own professional path, she added: ‘And I was lucky, because I only had three bosses and they all jumped on me, but it was early on, and after 22 I didn’t have a boss. I was my own boss.
‘So I haven’t been in a position of like, “Oh my God, I could lose my job and I have a child and this and that”, and those are terrible.’
The current movement of women speaking out against their harassers and attackers, Diane said, has caused a lot of memories she had buried to come back to her.
‘I was never traumatized at all but I’m just thinking, “Yeah, why do they have to treat us as meat?”‘ she wondered.
Message: Diane, who rose to fame by inventing her cult wrap dress, said she wants her legacy to be for people to know they can be ‘the woman they want to be’
Support: The designer commended the women in France who have started their own version of the Me Too movement, coming forward under the label ‘Denounce Your Pig’
Diane then made it clear that no one is saying people can’t flirt, and that harassment and courtship are two very different things, drawing on a phone call she’d had the previous night with the actor Warren Beatty, 80.
‘I was on the phone with Warren Beatty last night late, and he said to me, “Well I hope this won’t [mean that] we can’t be flirtatious,” ‘ Diane recounted.
‘And I said “No, that doesn’t, you can be flirtatious and you can talk and you can insinuate and you can do all of that, but if you are an old, droopy 76-year-old TV host and you think that putting your hands every single day on your assistant’s tits, if you think that’s a compliment, it’s not.
‘And therefore, I think it’s very healthy this whole thing. I actually think it’s great.’
Diane then commended the women in France who have started their own version of the Me Too movement, coming forward against their harassers under the label ‘Denounce Your Pig’.
When it comes to making progress in the realm of women’s rights, the designer believes change will come from equality.
‘Women and men are humans and we should be treated equally and we should have equal opportunities and certainly equal salaries,’ she said. ‘And we start like that.’
She then took a jab at President Donald Trump, whom 20 women have accused of sexual misconduct. Diane pointed out the commander in chief hasn’t faced the same consequences as other men, such as Harvey Weinstein and Matt Lauer, who have been fired as the result of allegations against them.
Past: Diane explained that she had accomplished ‘everything’ in her life—including marrying Prince Egon von Fürstenberg (pictured with her in 1970 in New York City), by the age of 29
It begs the question: ‘I was never traumatized at all but I’m just thinking “Yeah, why do they have to treat us as meat?” ‘ Diane (pictured in 1970) wondered about harassers
Boundaries: Diane (pictured with Egon in an archive shot) then made it clear that no one is saying people can’t flirt, and that harassment and courtship are two very different things
‘I don’t know why all these people lose their job and our president cannot lost his job,’ she said, eliciting cheers and claps from the audience.
Asked to name women who inspire her, the designer discussed Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour, stating: ‘We have very different styles and very different personalities, but she’s a very loyal friend and a wonderful woman.’
She further commented on Anna’s famously reserved behavior, adding: ‘Anna Wintour is shy. The cold look is because she is shy.’
‘I love the intimacy with women and I personally get very inspired by women and that’s why I’m so committed to women and I want every woman to be strong and I want every woman to feel good about herself,’ Diane added. ‘I think it’s time to take over. I think we have to and I think we have to do it in a systematic way. We have to do it with our heart but I think that equality is the first step for sure.’
I want every woman to be strong and I want every woman to feel good about herself
Diane also reflected on her personal life, and explained that she had accomplished ‘everything’ in her life—including starting her business and marrying a royal, her first husband Prince Egon von Fürstenberg, by the age of 29.
Looking back on her youth, she reminisced: ‘I had lots of lovers. I lived like a man in a woman’s body. There was no AIDS, there was Studio 54, I had lots of money… I had a great time!’
She candidly detailed a more difficult part of her life, her forties, during which she was diagnosed with cancer in 1994 aged 47.
‘It wasn’t my best decade,’ she said, before reassuring the crowd that by the age of 50 she was ‘on top of the world again’.
Now, Diane, who has been married to media mogul Barry Diller for 16 years, is the proud grandmother of four grandchildren.
Looking back on her incredible fashion career, she said, ‘People think I created the wrap dress, but actually the wrap dress created me. And I owe her a lot.’