Diane von Furstenberg Signs Copies of Her New Book, "The Woman I Wanted To Be"
Fashion Designer Diane von Furstenberg attends the book signing of her book "The Woman I Wanted To Be'' at the opening of the new DVF Santa Monica boutique, on November 17, 2014. Photograph by Valerie Macon — Getty Images

Diane von Furstenberg: Less is sometimes more in an age of so much choice

Jan 15, 2015

Consumers have more choice than ever, with everyone from retailers to cereal makers widening their assortments dramatically to reach a broader clientele.

That is especially true in the world of fashion, with retailers such as luxury department store Saks focusing on building out low-price outlet stores to win frugal shoppers, and brands like Coach (coh) widely expanding their shoe and clothing selections to be less reliant on handbags.

Learn more about Coach's expansion from Fortune's video team:

The result in the aggregate has left consumers overwhelmed and often bewildered by an embarrassment of riches. And so as customers navigate an endless array of products and potentially become blasé, pulling back a bit might be an answer to safeguarding one's aura of luxury, according to one of fashion's biggest luminaries.

"For me the focus of this year is about the product—making less and make it better," said Diane von Furstenberg earlier this week at an event by retail investment bank Financo.

“I think we need better curation, better merchants. Because at the end, it’s all about curation. Everything is available, in every price, in every color and nobody needs a (expletive) thing.” She added, referring to an era of mergers that led to department store chains losing much of their ability to let local stores choose their assortment: "All of a sudden, stores were no longer run by merchants, but they were run by accounting."

The comments come as many in the fashion industry surmise that DVF, as her $500 million a year company is known, could try to go public, a theory that gained credence in 2012, when DVF hired former Tommy Hilfiger executive Joel Horowitz as co-chairman to help her manage the company's growth.

On his watch, DVF has hatched a plan to open 100 stores in the U.S. in the next five to six years, open more stores abroad and focus more on accessories like shoes and handbags, which von Furstenberg said at the Financo event was crucial, even if potentially difficult.

Last year, DVF celebrated the 40th anniversary of her signature wrap dress. It has proven without a doubt the durability of her brand and has sold in the tens of millions. That success has given her a deep, timeless insight into what women fundamentally want from fashion, and informs every single thing decision she makes in terms of fashion and business.

"We celebrate freedom, we empower women and we sell confidence. At the end it’s all about confidence. Confidence is what women want.”

In an industry fixated by youth, the 68-year-old Belgian-born von Furstenberg bragged that her age was in fact an asset.

“I’m an old brand, a brand that is 40 years old, so the good thing about aging is that you have credibility,” she said. “How do you live with the past and the history and translate it into the future? And that is the challenge, and it is a very interesting challenge, and I’m very curious to see how we’re going to do it.”

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