What do you say about a dress that can stand the test of time? I say, celebrate it. That’s what Bergdorf Goodman did last week, honoring the 40th anniversary of Diane von Furstenberg’s wrap dress. But how does a dress stand the test of time? Novelty? Sex appeal? For Von Furstenberg's signature style, it was a bit of both: a jersey dress that wraps around the body, loosely tied together with a belt. Smart. Sexy. Yet four decades ago, no one had done it.
Time out here for a fashion-geek analogy: Back when the DVF label was revived in 1997, starlets — Gwyneth Paltrow, Madonna — swooned at the reissue of the wrap. Last evening, almost two decades later, twentysomethings were complementing the latest versions done exclusively for Bergdorf Goodman (the DVF windows by Bergdorf Goodman are on display through June 17). “I love this,” uttered one girl, snapping photo after photo of the DVF-dressed mannequins. “This jumpsuit! OMG,” was another exclamation.
What’s fresh about Von Furstenberg is the way she identifies with a younger generation’s imagination of the past, of the New York that represented the glitz of disco and the glam of Warhol and Co. at their fullest. It’s something we all picture in our own way, but when you think of disco you think of DVF. That’s why a group of pretty young things was following her around today, vying for a chance to be her brand ambassador on a new reality show that will air this fall.
Diane von Furstenberg, the woman, is a lovely, roaring wonder, the perfect image for her brand. In her playful fashion, she takes a more oblique approach to designing these days — wrap-inspired jumpsuits, knitting a picture of herself onto a spongy sweater — and it pays off beautifully. But the original wrap still remains her sexiest dress. For all its fame and column inches, its success is best measured by its simplicity and purity of innovation. “Wrap is just wrap,” she tells me, “You can do anything with it.” Yet she’s designed a fantasy, a garment that can look great on three generations of women, available, much like a Warhol portrait, in a slew of prints and colors that enhance the dresses’ power.
It’s easy to imagine that recreating these looks for a new generation is challenging, but, she admits, it wasn’t as hard as she believed. “The truth is, I thought [it would be]. I hesitated to do the exhibition in L.A. — we did a big exhibition — and so I hired someone to curate it, and we made some new ones, and all of a sudden I looked at it and said, 'Wow…'” drawing out the word. “I looked at it in a whole new way, really looking into the future. We made a lot of new ones.”
Von Furstenberg is also looking to the future with a freshly announced Google Glass collaboration. “I should be wearing them now,” she tells me, noting that she likes to take pictures with the device, but doesn't use many other apps. She continues: “I was the first one to introduce Google Glass to the world, really. When [Google co-founder] Sergey [Brin] asked me if I would put them on the catwalk, it was the first time that the world saw it. But [the models] were filming while they were on the catwalk and Google made a film and it was the first time that somebody watching the film could feel how it is to be a model.” Which is also a feeling many women must get when they put on one of her dresses.