A few weeks ago, I had the incredible opportunity of speaking to Diane von Furstenberg, who in my humble opinion, really needs no introduction. The former princess turned fashion designer is most well known for her iconic wrap dress and is currently promoting her new TV series, House of DVF, where she and her company will select a global brand ambassador. House of DVF offers a rare glimpse into the 67-year-old’s empire, but it isn’t your conventional reality series. At some point during our interview, the straight talking designer reveals, “some of those shows objectify the women. I wanted very much to build confidence in women, and it’s not the b***h that wins. You also have to be a good person and I believe that very much and I enforce that.”
Why did you decide to take on a reality TV project like the House of DVF?
Well, first of all I have to say that I don’t call it a reality show but it is definitely a documented serial and non-scripted show. I had been offered to do that for years and years, and I always said no. And then, one day, I decided with my marketing department that I was going to look for [a] young girl, to become a brand ambassador. And then someone said “That should be the TV show!”, so that’s how it started. It’s something that we were going to [do] anyway. But then I decided if I do a TV show, it had to be 100% authentic. Nothing is scripted, nothing is fake, nothing is created – everything is real. It is about 8 girls that come into DVF, there was nothing that was made for them. It was all the things that I was, or the company were, going to do, and we adapted some of the things so that they would have something to do, and we would be able to test them. So, that’s the story. The story of 8 girls that come into DVF, and they learn about every department – merchandising, design, retail, events, communication, PR- and we look at them, evaluate them, and then one will, at the end, become a brand ambassador.
Do you see yourself in any of the girls who are vying for the ambassador position?
Yes. Even though I am a grandmother, and an older woman, I very much relate to that moment in a girl’s life, when she is at the very beginning of her life. That is a moment that is very important to me. Because when I was young, I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but I knew the kind of woman I wanted to be. I wanted to be an independent woman, a woman in-charge of her life, in-charge of her destiny. And I became that woman. I started by working for an Italian man, who had a factory, and who taught me everything about his business. So, that was my door, and you never know, in the beginning which is your door. So yes, I relate very much to these young girls, I love to mentor young girls. That’s why I think this show was fun to do, and I think it’s going to be successful. Because this show is fun, informative, but I also managed to pass some very important, good, empowering advice to young women.
What can we expect from the show? Will it be predictably catty and full of fashion world glitz and glamour?
It will be very much the inside of the company. It will be fun, it will be glamorous, it will be entertaining, but it will also be incredibly informative for the audience. So I think it’s fun.
What are the qualities you are looking at for the brand ambassador?
They have to know how to present themselves, they have to be strong, they have to be able to handle stress, they have to understand the brand, and they have to the desire and the love to want to do it.
Earlier you mentioned about the joys of mentoring young women. It’s very easy to have a perception about fashion and how glamorous it is, but if you could impart one advice to girls who are looking to be in the fashion industry, what would you tell them?
This is the most important advice I give any young woman, in whatever industry she is in, is that the most important relationship in life is the one that you have with yourself. That is – you have to be true to yourself, you have to build your confidence, you have to be your best friend. That is the biggest advice I can give anybody, at any time.
What was the greatest challenge in being in front of the camera for so long every day?
It was actually a very easy to role to play because I just have to be me. So my only problem is that I’m not young, you know, so I don’t always look very good, but other than that it was good and easy.
Global brand ambassadors are usually celebrities, or well-known figures. Why did you come up with the idea of using real girls instead of celebrities? And how did that process come about?
Celebrities are also real girls, so this was an idea that I had, and by the way, the DVF girl will become a celebrity. At the end, there is no difference if we get a real girl or a celebrity. Celebrities were not born celebrities – they become celebrities.
So what can you actually tell us about the girl who was chosen to be the global brand ambassador?
The truth is, it was a difficult situation at the end, because I really grew to love these girls. So you will see, you will change your mind many times. They were all great girls, they stayed in touch with me, they write emails to me all the time, and I’ve loved them. It’s been a wonderful adventure, and I think everybody who will watch the show will feel that.
Did the ladies handle the stress well on the show?
Yes, you will see. It’s entertaining, it’s fun, it’s glamourous, and you learn a lot. I managed to repeat some good messages, which for me is important, because I want women to be empowered. So you will never see anything where the woman is objectified. One of the things the winner is going to is travel the world. I think next year we are planning to come to Singapore, and she will be coming with me.
House of DVF premieres tonight 4 November, Tuesdays at 11pm on E!, Astro Channel 712