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Diane von Furstenberg for WSJ’s My Monday Morning

In WSJ. Magazine’s popular series My Monday Morning, self-motivated people tell WSJ. how they start off the week.

This week, fashion icon Diane von Furstenberg talks to WSJ. about her new book, Own It, reassessing her company in the age of Covid, and her secrets to living well.

Frances Tulk-Hart for WSJ. Magazine

On company changes:

“For me this past year was a forced pause. I had to reflect on my priorities as a human being. It also forced me to think about the business model of DVF and change the things that are not relevant anymore. I’m still on that process. What I’m also happy about is I had the strength of facing the situation in my company and turning it around and having the courage to do things that were very unpleasant—you know, closing stores and separating with people.”

Diane von Furstenberg has spent most of the past year at Cloudwalk, the country home in Connecticut she bought decades ago, where each day she takes a three-mile walk. During the pandemic, the 74-year-old fashion designer, who founded the fashion and lifestyle brand DVF and created the signature jersey “wrap” dress in the 1970s, has found comfort doing jigsaw puzzles, open-water swimming and listening to books on Audible.

She’s also been organizing her extensive DVF archives, during what she calls her legacy time. “I am in the sunset of my life. It is the time you reflect on all the things you have done,” she says. “How can I most create an impact using my voice, my resources, my knowledge, my experience and my connections?”

The Belgium-born entrepreneur’s eighth book, Own It: The Secret to Life, will be published by Phaidon on March 8, International Women’s Day. The colorful, pocket-size title is structured as an A-to-Z guide with 268 personally selected words and aphorisms. Binding these texts together is von Furstenberg’s philosophy that the key to life is “owning it.”

“Last year or two years ago I started to think, What does it mean to be in charge? Because you know I had it on T-shirts and it could seem very aggressive. And I realized that it is not aggressive,” she says. “Being in charge is a commitment to yourself.”

DVF’s advice on living well:

The person I learned the most from is my mother, and the biggest lesson she taught me was that fear was not an option and that I had to be responsible for myself. I really discovered that the secret of life is owning it. You own your imperfections; they become your assets. You own your vulnerability; it becomes your strength. And so it is really about being in charge of yourself and making a commitment to yourself to be the best you can be.

DVF on applying that advice to her own business this year:

For me this past year was a forced pause. I had to reflect on my priorities as a human being. It also forced me to think about the business model of DVF and change the things that are not relevant anymore. I’m still on that process. What I’m also happy about is I had the strength of facing the situation in my company and turning it around and having the courage to do things that were very unpleasant—you know, closing stores and separating with people.

DVF on passing down these lessons to her children and grandchildren:

At this point in my family, if I say, “Own it,” they get annoyed. But yes, it is in their blood. It is also so relevant now. All of a sudden you are staying in your house and your life has changed, and so it is pointless to complain or to blame. All you have to do is to make the best out of it. And more important than anything, be compassionate.

DVF on her biggest contribution to fashion:

My biggest contribution is that I made women confident. I designed for the woman I wanted to be, which is a woman on the go.

DVF on what she misses most right now, given the pandemic?

It is not about what you miss; it is how you enjoy what you have.

This article is featured in WSJ. Magazine’s Spring Men’s Fashion Issue out on newsstands Saturday, March 13th. The article can be found here – https://www.wsj.com/articles/diane-von-furstenberg-secrets-fitness-swimming-routine-11614605603?utm_source=hcm&utm_medium=organic&utm_campaign=mag

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