Keeping up with Diane von Furstenberg

November 24th, 2011

Nadine Kam photos
Diane von Furstenberg, second from right, in a Hatsu steel-and-neon-colored dress from her Resort 2012 collection, found plenty of fans awaiting at her DVF boutique at Ala Moana Center. The fashion icon was in town for a grand opening celebration that took place Nov. 22. Also pictured, from right, are Eleanor Kawananakoa, Brynn Foster, Candes Gentry, Kristen Chan and Anne Marie Jones.

Diane Von Furstenberg may have lost the right to the title of princess after divorcing her German-Italian Prince Egon Von Furstenberg decades ago, but she’s still fashion royalty and was greeted as such at a grand opening celebration at her newest DVF boutique, in the Ala Moana Center, Nov. 22.

There were 500 RSVPs for an audience with the designer who made history in the early 1970s, when she designed a little jersey wrap dress that sold in the millions and landed her on the cover of Newsweek magazine in 1976.

It was more than a dress. As noted in my story in the newspaper today, it was a symbol of women’s empowerment and women’s new presence in the workforce in the era of NOW and feminism. B.D. (before Diane), women were being told that to succeed in the workforce they had to become more like men, and dressing for success meant donning thugly pantsuits and blazers paired with little bowtie blouses, to look more like a man.

Then came Diane with her message and shining example of a woman who was succeeding in business while still retaining her femininity. It was an eye-opener at the time, and today, just look at how many soul sisters she has in Hawaii alone, who have started their own successful businesses or are managing business for others.

in my Monday interview with the designer, she said she always enjoyed being a woman and she has a feline quality about her, although she’s more lioness than kitten. At 64, she has the kind of strength and energy that others must keep up with. In fact, as soon as I arrived at the party Tuesday night, a photographer pulled me aside and said, of photographing Diane, “You better move fast because she doesn’t stand still for more than a minute.”

“Hawaii Five-O’s” Grace Park had a long chat with the designer.

Grace with DVF Honolulu boutique manager Marilee Mattson. Coincidentally, Marilee also worked for another enduring fashion icon, Betsey Johnson, and was responsible for bringing Betsey to town twice. Hopefully, we’ll see Diane here many times as well.

Diane von Furstenberg’s VP of Global Communications Grace Cha, second from right, also welcomed Fendi’s Cammy Maheras, “Hawaii Five-0′s” Brian Yang, and film producer Chris Lee.

In light of her energy, which one other person in the store had characterized as abrupt, I found her to be very gracious and un-divalike, especially in having given me a second chance at an interview. I had been trying to get an advance phone interview with her but because she was on an international tour scheduling was difficult. A live date was set, which was later rescheduled. I thought only the time had changed, but the day had changed as well. So, at my desk Monday, I got that dreaded call saying, “Diane’s here, are you still coming?”

It worked out better than planned. Instead of meeting at the store as scheduled, we ended up meeting a half hour later in her suite at the Halekulani, with its picture window view of Diamond Head, where she could relax and curl up on the couch and I had more time than I probably would have had earlier.

I’d had a brush with the designer during New York Fashion Week in September 2008, when she hosted a party at the Cuban restaurant Socialista to celebrate the launch of Nina Garcia’s “Little Black Book of Style.” Out of all the famous, glamorous personages in the room that night, Diane outshone them all so that when she arrived, you could feel the energy in the packed room change, like Moses parting the sea as people gave her room to move, while still pressing in to gawk.

LeSportsac’s Cindy Eastman, left, showed up in one of the iconic wrap dresses from DVF’s Vintage Collection, made with a reissued 1970s print, while Condesa-Azira Nora Meijide-Gentry showed up in one of DVF’s Fall 2012 creations.

Diane gamely posed for photos with all who wanted their brush with fame documented.

It is no small feat to remain relevant in the fashion business nearly 40 years, when attention spans are short, customers are fickle, and a single bad season can make or break you. What was funny was that during our interview, she turned some of those kinds of questions back on me, asking, “What do you think?” when I asked about what women wanted from their clothing then vs. now, and how she attributes her enduring success.

That makes sense. She’s a person who is interested in ideas and didn’t seem particularly interested in looking back and speculating about her success. She’s realistic enough to assume a degree of luck and serendipitous timing. She puts on no airs and has no illusions about herself, saying at one point, “Of course, I can’t wear my own dresses these days.”

I was like, “That’s crazy, of course you can!”

And she goes, “It’s OK.”

She’s also a forward-looking, big-picture person who has long set her sights on Asia and China, and mentioned that, as a gateway to Asia, she’s wanted to be in Hawaii for “quite a while.”

As president of the Council of fashion designers of America, she’s well aware of New York’s position on the global circuit and trying to get its members to consider their response to the growing number of Fashion Week destinations in Asia that will one day vie for major editors’ and buyers’ attention.

With so much on her mind, it’s no wonder she can’t keep still.

After the party she headed to the airport for a flight to Kauai, where she’s spending a quiet Thanksgiving with family, and finally taking time to sleep between swims and hikes.

Moreso than at most events of this kind, the registers were ringing all night. No doubt having DVF in the house helped as she signed many a book and item sold that night, as this book below.

Fun with fur: Stylist Geremy Campos, with Josh Dulatre, shows the movement in one of DVF’s furs.

Marilee and staffers Malina Yanai, left, and Lena Baptiste, right, wear the New Jeanne wrap dress from DVF’s Resort 2012 Vintage Collection. They’re with Lindsay Carmer, director of U.S. Retail for DVF.

Marilee with her hubby Alan Mattson and Grace Cha.

Guests, from left, Wanda Watumull, Jamie Churchill, Emalia Pietsch and Ann Pietsch.

Also among the guests were Tiana Torii, left, and Paulina Cutter.

Liza Rybakova, left, and Carrie Shuler.

From left, Erika Kauffman, Sherry Wong and Brynn Foster.

I was trying to get a photo of Dialta Alliata di Montereale with a few people, but the gregarious princess called in her many friends.

Finally, I managed to corner Dialta with, at right, Julia Steele, and Marisa and Patrick Gey.

Brian Yang and Chris Lee in front of the store with Lara Fonoimoana, left, and Angela Byrd, in DVF Fall 2011 dresses.

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