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Diane Von Furstenberg, rocked by pandemic, insists the jet-setting woman hasn’t gone away

October 13, 2020, 9:00 PM UTC

Diane Von Furstenberg, founder of the eponymous DVF fashion brand and creator of its iconic wrap dress, knows a thing or two about travel. The Belgian-born designer studied in England, Spain, and Switzerland before marrying into German nobility and founding her womenswear brand in New York. 

The aforementioned jersey wrap dress was created by DVF for women like Von Furstenberg who lived out of a suitcase but wanted to remain chic. Its fans include Michelle Obama and Kate Middleton, as well as legions of professional women and expectant mothers. 

“You know, I’ve always been the same woman, I was the same woman at 20,” said Von Furstenberg at Fortune’s MPW Next Gen virtual conference on Tuesday. “I wanted to be a woman who can move and go from the car to the airport and be ready to go and ready to pack, and easy to pack. And those are the clothes that I made.”

But what happens to the jet-set wrap dress wearer when the travel goes away? 

“She’s still the woman in charge, who wants to own her life, whether at work or whatever it is,” said Talita Von Furstenberg, Diane’s granddaughter who has her own sub-line TVF for DVF. “That woman still exists today whether she’s getting on a plane or not.” 

But the pandemic has radically rocked DVF’s business. Earlier this year, the brand closed all but one of its 19 directly operated stores in the U.S., laid off 75% of its 400-person workforce, and its French and British operations filed for the European equivalent of Chapter 11 bankruptcy. 

“Our stores have obviously been dying out in the past,” said Talita, “But now retail is much different, it’s online, it’s all DTC (direct to consumer) and I think DVF has to accept that and evolve.” 

Instead of shying away from the struggles of her brand, Diane Von Furstenberg has been quite vocal about them, and hopes her trials can be a lesson for others.

“I’ve been a little bit the ‘mother’ of fashion for so many years. So if I was having difficulties, I think it’s important to share it with other people so that they know that it can happen to everyone,” Diane said of the reasons why she’s so open about the DVF brand’s rocky moment. “And the same time. Other moment people think, Oh, it’s over and our business is over. And that’s not true, either. Because you’re already on the way back. So I think that for me, sharing everything that I experience has been good for me. And it’s good for others, and there is no shame.”