Diane von Furstenberg on motherhood, independence and Owning It
The designer, philanthropist and author reflects on her mother’s miraculous pregnancy and her own independent offspring
You might think Diane von Furstenberg has led a charmed life, and you’d be right for the most part. She is a famously successful entrepreneur, philanthropist and fashion designer; Newsweek magazine declared her 'the most remarkable woman since Coco Chanel’ and she was president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America from 2006 until 2019.
Nevertheless, von Furstenberg wasn’t born under the most fortuitous circumstances. “Eighteen months before I was born, my mother was liberated from the Nazi concentration camps,” writes the designer in the Motherhood entry in her new book, Own It: The Secret to Life. “She weighed forty-nine pounds and could barely move. Back in Belgium, her mother fed her bit by bit with food and love. Five months later, her fiancé came back from Switzerland, where he had spent the latter years of the war, and they were married. Her doctor warned them not to have a child, yet I came to life.”
And so, triumph in the face of adversity has become a key motif for the author. “My life was truly a miracle, as was my mother’s survival,” von Furstenberg concludes. “My mother was strict and demanding, forbidding me ever to be afraid or to feel like a victim. It was not easy to be her daughter, but I was always thankful to her. By being tough and forcing me to be responsible, she gave me strength and freedom. To be a mother is to know how to protect, and the best way to protect is to give the child the keys of independence.”
These thoughts on motherhood extend into the Independence entry in Own It. “Independence is my reason for being,” she explains. “Growing up, I did not know what I wanted to do, but I knew the kind of woman I wanted to be: an independent woman who could design her own life. As a mother, what I wanted most was for my children to be responsible and therefore independent.”
These thoughts lead us onto similar meditations in the book’s Children entry. “I have seven children, counting my five grandchildren,” she writes. “As all mothers do, I want more for them than I want for myself. I love them unconditionally and respect them, but also admire them, watching them go into life owning who they are.”
Wouldn’t you agree? Whether you’re just starting out, or looking back and assessing your life, why don’t you aim to own it too, and order a copy of von Furstenberg’s pithy, witty and wise book here.