Diane von Furstenberg in Her Third Act

Diane von Furstenberg at 70, in her office in the Meatpacking District, NYC (AP Photo/Richard Drew)

I always used to say that life has three moments,” she says, sitting in her downtown office on a recent afternoon. “One is development, until about (age) 30. One is enjoyment, and then the third, the last season of your life, is somehow about fulfillment.” ~ Diane von Furstenberg

Designer Diane von Furstenberg is refocusing her life. Having handed over the creative reins of her fashion label to Jonathan Saunders, one of fashion’s most iconic names is turning her energies to philanthropy.  When von Furstenberg turned 70 on New Year’s Eve, she had already been asking herself,  “What kind of senior citizen do I want to be? How do I stay relevant?” – for a year. What she decided, she says, was to use her voice to focus on women from the inside, rather than the outside. “All my life was about creating a product, fashion, something (women) could use to be the woman they want to be, and now in my third act I want to use my voice to help women be the woman they want to be, but from the inside.

When I read von Furstenbergs’ memoir, The Woman I Wanted to Be, I was touched by her mother’s story and the strength (and life!) that she received from her mother. Her mother was a concentration camp survivor. She survived two concentration camps, and even though she came home weighing only 59 pounds, she gave birth the following year to her daughter, Diane. Throughout her life, her mother would tell her that God saved her so that she could give her life. I think that is why Diane von Furstenberg wants to help women find their voices and their strength. I think it is what motivates her. I want to see how she inspires women going forward, in her third act …


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The Woman Diane von Furstenberg Wanted To Be

Diane von Furstenberg:

Diane von Furstenberg’s Memoir: The Woman I Wanted To Be

I love reading stories about strength and survival and compassion and romance. And I especially love reading about people’s lives and the things that really happen to them, because there is always that moment when you know that nothing fictional could come close to the reality of life. That is where the beauty is – that is where the surprise is. One may think of designer and philanthropist Diane von Furstenberg a certain way, but I guarantee that if you read her memoir, The Woman I Wanted To Be, you will be amazed to know the life she has led and that this woman is real.

Her words are honest and endearing and forthcoming …

On her mother, who survived the Nazi death camps at Auschwitz and Ravensbrück: “I feel it is my duty to make up for all the suffering she endured, to always celebrate freedom and live fully. My birth was her triumph. She was not supposed to survive; I was not supposed to be born. We proved them wrong. We both won the day I was born.

On taking time with yourself: “You cannot have a good relationship with anyone, unless you first have it with yourself … I was lucky to start a relationship with myself very early in life. I am not sure why; maybe because I had no sibling until the age of six and I was alone a lot, or maybe because I was taught from an early age to be responsible for myself and for my actions.”

On confronting cancer at the age of forty-seven: “I became more compassionate to the sufferings of others, appreciated the value of health, became more spiritual and understood both my fragility and my strength.”

On taking chances in life: “I’ve long believed that the ‘if’s’ were the doors to my future, and I dared to open them, one by one, as they came along. I knew the kind of woman I wanted to be but I didn’t know how I would become her. Opening those doors led me on a path to fashion, and that became the path to the woman I am today.”

On the nature of Nature: “Nature is never still. Things are growing, ripening, aging, fading, and then starting again. The trees are beautiful even when bare. I love every phase and I am endlessly fascinated by that life cycle moving on. Nature never stops.”

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