Diane von Furstenberg on her new reality show and famous wrap dress

Reality show House Of DVF will have eight women competing for the job of global ambassador for the Diane von Furstenberg brand.
Reality show House Of DVF will have eight women competing for the job of global ambassador for the Diane von Furstenberg brand.PHOTOS: E!, DIANE VON FURSTENBERG
Reality show House Of DVF will have eight women competing for the job of global ambassador for the Diane von Furstenberg brand.
Reality show House Of DVF will have eight women competing for the job of global ambassador for the Diane von Furstenberg brand.PHOTOS: E!, DIANE VON FURSTENBERG
Reality show House Of DVF will have eight women competing for the job of global ambassador for the Diane von Furstenberg brand.
Reality show House Of DVF will have eight women competing for the job of global ambassador for the Diane von Furstenberg brand.PHOTOS: E!, DIANE VON FURSTENBERG
Reality show House Of DVF will have eight women competing for the job of global ambassador for the Diane von Furstenberg brand.
Reality show House Of DVF will have eight women competing for the job of global ambassador for the Diane von Furstenberg brand.PHOTOS: E!, DIANE VON FURSTENBERG

Designer Diane von Furstenberg has a new reality TV show out and will soon launch two books

Forty years after her first jersey wrap dress, Diane von Furstenberg still sets a dynamic pace.

In January, the Belgium-born American designer held the retrospective exhibition Journey Of A Dress to mark the 40th anniversary of her iconic wrap dress in Los Angeles.

The 67-year-old will also launch two books next month - a coffee-table one chronicling the Journey Of A Dress and a tell-all memoir titled The Woman I Wanted To Be.

To top it off, she has a new reality TV show called House Of DVF, in which eight young women vie for the top job of global ambassador for the Diane von Furstenberg brand.

Aged between 19 and 25, the women are tasked with challenges in every department of the company, from merchandising to design to public relations.

House Of DVF premieres on Nov 4 at 10pm on E! (StarHub TV Channel 441).

On why she took the plunge into the world of reality TV, the mother of two said in a telephone interview!: "I'd been offered to do this for years and years, and I always said no because I didn't understand why I should. Then one day, I decided with the marketing department that we were going to look for a young girl to become a brand ambassador and someone said that should be a TV show," she said.

The show is a fresh opportunity to directly advise young women as well. "I love to mentor young girls at the beginning of their lives. We all remember how it is with so many doors in front of you and you don't know which door is best.

"I care about these girls. One of the things that I didn't like about such reality shows is that they usually objectify women and the b***h is the one who wins. But this show is not like that at all, we become family. Now that the filming of the show is over, they still write to me."

Her advice to anyone aspiring to work in the fashion industry, she said, applies to anybody.

"The most important relationship in life is the one you have with yourself. Be true to yourself. It is not something that happens overnight, it is a practice and you have to be demanding on yourself," she said.

"No one criticises me more than I do. And I think that is good and productive."

The winner of the show will start work officially at the DVF office in January.

Von Furstenberg's dynamism and media savviness have helped to keep her brand relevant through the years.

She arrived in New York in 1969 as one half of a royal couple. Then, she was married to Swiss-born Prince Egon von Furstenberg. The couple separated in 1973, but she kept his name and, by then, had already started her own eponymous label.

According to the Women's Wear Daily, the designer launched her signature boldly patterned wrap dresses - a cross between a dressing robe and a kimono of sorts - after she decided to make "little dresses that were easy, simple and that could be worn everywhere".

The deep plunge of the dress was seductive, while the collar and cuffs made the wrinkle-free jersey smart enough for the office. In the article, she summarised the appeal of the dress.

"It felt to be exactly what women wanted at that time (in the 1970s). It was liberating and empowering, and women embraced it in an overwhelming way," she said. "This is what gave it its cultural significance."

The wrap dress was so successful that more than a million were sold by 1976 and von Furstenberg scored a Newsweek cover. But the market became over-saturated with the dresses and she left for Paris in 1984 where she started a publishing house.

She made her comeback in the American market in the early 1990s and relaunched the wrap dress in 1997 after she reportedly spotted young women hunting down the dresses in vintage boutiques.

While it might seem obvious, she said it took her awhile to realise the importance of the wrap dress.

She had mentioned in previous interviews that she has a love-hate relationship with it and resented the fact that the brand was known mainly for its wrap dresses although she has plenty of other styles.

But she has since changed her mind. "The wrap dress has changed my life. It has made me famous and paid for everything; my independence, my children's education, my houses," she told Life!

"And along the way, it has transformed many people because it gave a lot of women confidence. For years, I took it for granted. Now, I honour it."

Naturally, von Furstenberg cited the Journey of a Dress exhibition as one of the most fulfilling moments of her career, when she saw "everything I had done" under one roof.

"There were 225 wrap dresses, all different: long, short, dressy and sporty designs over the years. That was when I saw the flexibility, relevance and timelessness of the dress, and I was very proud."

To keep her brand desirable, which is available in 20 markets outside of the United States, she stays at the forefront of technology.

For her spring 2013 show, her models wore Google Glass, while Google co-founder Sergey Brin sat in the front row. She has also teamed up with luxury e-tailer Net-A-Porter for a collection of sunglasses and frames for the glasses.

Last year, she was also one of the first designers to work with Google on a live talkshow. Viewers could shop for the items mentioned, which were displayed by the side of the small screen as she spoke.

And she is big on Instagram too. While von Furstenberg has her staff handle the account (@DVF), she personally posts snapshots of her life regularly. Her 567,000 followers have been treated to everything from childhood pictures of her daughter Tatiana and selfies in the office to a raspberry chocolate cake she enjoyed.

"I've always done personal appearances in stores and have very open dialogue with my customers. I feel like I've been doing social media even before social media existed," she said.

"I love taking pictures and uploading them on Instagram. I always say that I'm lucky to be old enough to dance at Studio 54 and young enough to be part of the digital revolution."

gladysc@sph.com.sg

House Of DVF premieres on Nov 4 at 10pm on E! (StarHub TV Channel 441).


FIVE FACTS ON THE WRAP DRESS

1 A Hollywood A-lister was conceived in one

According to the Wall Street Journal, Anne Hathaway's mother pulled Diane von Furstenberg aside at a luncheon and said she possibly conceived her daughter in a tulip- print wrap dress.

"I collect these stories, of people who got the job or their husband because of the wrap dress," said von Furstenberg.

2 More than 200 wrap dresses were showcased at the journey of a dress exhibition

A 40-year-old python dress was borrowed from a customer for the exhibition, Vogue reported. The DVF staff had not been able to track down that dress, but von Furstenberg spotted it on a customer at an in-store event.

3 The US First Lady is a fan

Mrs Michelle Obama wore a black-and- white chain print wrap dress for the first White House family Christmas card. She has also been spotted in various wrap dresses while on official duty.

4 Diane von Furstenberg was the first model for the wrap dress

In the first advertisement she placed in the Women's Wear Daily, von Furstenberg is pictured wearing a wrap dress and sitting on a cube emblazoned with her slogan, "Feel like a woman, wear a dress!"

5 There are 15,000 prints in the DVF wrap dress archive

The popular ones comprise contrasting twigs, chainlink, leopard, cube, python and graphic signature patterns.

DVF wrap dresses are priced from $660 to $1,240 and are available at Ion Orchard, 01-08A, and Takashimaya Department Store level 2.