Six Things We Learned From Diane Von Furstenberg’s TimesTalk

Diane Von Furstenberg has been in the biz since “antiquity,” she joked during last night’s TimesTalks panel, which also featured Norma Kamali, Prabal Gurung, and Fern Mallis. And though she knows a thing or two about timelessness, as evidenced by her ever-popular wrap dresses, she also works hard to keep abreast of current social happenings (Twitter) and Next Big Things (China, for one). Best of all, she’s never stingy with her two cents. Click ahead to read six pieces of wisdom gleaned straight from the D to the V to the F.

1. Leopard print will never go out of style.
“I remember, maybe 25 years ago, [Bloomingdale’s late VP of fashion direction] Kal Ruttenstein asked the question, ‘What do you think that people will wear in the year 2000?’ And I did a leopard tattoo. Leopard print is completely timeless. It was hot in the thirties, in the forties, in the fifties, in the sixties, in the seventies — all the decades. Why? Because there’s nothing more beautiful that the leopard, and the way the print moves on the skin and goes up and down. [Rolls and shimmies her shoulders, like a leopard striding through the jungle.] And when I did my first wrap dress, I did a leopard print. And by the way, I keep on doing it, and people keep on buying it. There’s something about how the woman feels feline. It’s kind of nice to feel feline.”

2. Be careful with Twitter, lest you offend the Spanish government.
“I tell you, I Twitter. And the first day I Twittered, I got robbed. I had only sent two Twitters, and then I was in Madrid in a museum and I got robbed. So I Twittered, ‘I got robbed,’ and wow! Did I see the power! It was all over, and I felt so bad, because the Spanish had invited me, and I was giving such a bad rap to Madrid. And then the story got built up. You know, people were saying I had been mugged, and beaten!”

3. Fashion would exist with or without designers.
“Even if there were no more designers, there would always be fashion. All of a sudden, the kids would all start to wear something the same way, you know, and boom.”

4. Soon, China will be buying our products.
“I could see that in twenty years clothes could be made here and sold to China. It will happen. When I was a little girl, if you didn’t finish your meal, my mother said, ‘Think of all the Chinese who have nothing to eat.’ And for my daughter, it was like, ‘Oh, the Chinese make everything.’ And for my grandchildren, it will be, ‘Oh, the Chinese buy everything.’ I mean, this China thing — I think it’s going to happen, like, tomorrow morning.”

5. She’s kind of over talking about wrap dresses, but it’s cool that women still wear them. Especially when women wear them and get jobs or get laid.
“Okay: It was great. I came out with this dress — by the way, a wrap dress is a dress that doesn’t have buttons or a zipper, you just wrap it around yourself. It’s a very universal shape, [like] a kimono or a toga, whatever. The only thing that was different was that it was jersey, and because it was jersey, it was tight to the body. And then, of course, I put leopard or whatever so that they all felt feline, and so on. I was a very young girl [when I designed it], 25 years old, and it was a huge success. All right, it’s fine, and I was so happy because it paid my bills and allowed me to live and pay for my kids, so it was great. But to me, what is most amazing is that, almost 40 years later, the young girls still want to wear it — each generation, every twenty years, has been wearing it. So, to me, it’s a dress that always reflects the beginning of your life. I mean, it’s ‘Oh, I wore that when I got my first job,’ or ‘Oh, I got laid.’ And so that’s one thing that I am very impressed by.”

6. You don’t need a signature look to survive in the industry.
“Well, you know, you’re not like, ‘Oh, I’m going to have a signature look.’ It’s like people who say, ‘Oh, you need to have an “It” bag.’ Well, you only know that your bag is ‘It’ when it’s ‘It’! You do things the best way you can with your passion and your knowledge and whatever, and then you put it out in the universe, and people either buy it or love it or don’t. And then you have young designers like this wonderful guy [pats Prabal Gurung’s knee], and he arrives in New York, and everybody loves him. People say, ‘Oh yes, business is difficult and there’s a crisis.’ But the truth is that there are little cracks. And if you are a nice little weed, then you will grow through the cracks!”

Six Things We Learned From Diane Von Furstenberg’s TimesTalk