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Design & Style

Diane’s Journey - Part 2

Diane von Furstenberg

Lesson time 15:22 min

Diane discusses how she launched—and re-launched—her iconic wrap dress.

Diane von Furstenberg
Teaches Building a Fashion Brand
In 17 video lessons, Diane von Furstenberg will teach you how to build and market your fashion brand.


I had my first hotel room in the Gotham Hotel. I took my first orders. And they were very tiny orders. They were 12 of this, and six of this, and 20 of this. And I then went back to the factory with my orders that I was so proud of. And he said, I can do that. I have a factory. I don't have a sample room. There is no way I can make them. And I would cry, and I would beg, and I would do whatever I want. And he said, OK. And he would try to do it. And then I would get shipped. And of course, when I got shipped, I did not know that you had to have the content of the fabric in English. And it was half . I had to cross. I went to the airport, and the warehouse, and it was cold, and I had to cross the Italian words and write English words. And then the packages came in. And what I ordered in red came in blue. And when it was a size 12, it was a size 8. And I shipped it all wrong. But because my order was very small, and I was very lucky, whatever I sold sold through. And so the next time around, six months later, when I would show up again in that same hotel, they bought a little more. And then came Bloomingdale's. And there was a big order. And they were talking about windows. And ads. And I had no idea what they're talking about. And I wasn't prepared. But you pretend. You pretend that you know, and pretend that you know, and then you don't know, and then you do know, because you throw yourself into it. And of course, I was young, and I was kind of pretty. And so they asked me if I would model for the clothes to do the ad, which was great because then I didn't have to pay for the model. So I did that. And two years happened. Two years went by where I did everything. I didn't have an office. I did everything out of my dining room, going back and forth in Italy, begging to be made, and this and that. Two years into it, I realized that there was a little traction. That I had something. But I really needed professional help. Don't be embarrassed by wanting to learn. Don't be embarrassed to go to somebody and say, can you please teach me, or can you please show me. So you have to be very, very open minded and create your network, and create the weave-- the people that you meet. Weave the people that you can connect with into a fabric, which will be the fabric of your life. I had a lawyer and I asked him to find me which are the three of the leading 7th Avenue firms that have many lines. And he came up with three names. The third man, Johnny Pomerantz from Leslie Fay, he was very nice to me. And he said to me, listen, you don't need us. All you need is to find a salesman, and you take a showroom on 7th avenue, and that's it. I said, I don't know any salesmen. Do you know anybody? And he said, let me think about it and come back in a week. And a week later I came back and he introduced me to ...

About the Instructor

In her 20s, Diane Von Furstenberg convinced a textile factory owner in Italy to let her produce her first designs. With those samples, she flew to New York City to build one of the world’s most iconic and enduring fashion brands. In her first online fashion design class, Diane teaches you how to build a brand. You’ll learn how to create a visual identity, build loyalty, stay true to your vision, and launch your product.


Students give MasterClass an average rating of 4.7 out of 5 stars.

Great information on how to build on your brand from the ground up. Also, inspired me to want to learn from her.

It has guided me into being more assertive with my company. It has helped me to learn how to use my voice and how to be true to my brand.

wow! Extremely motivating and full of valuable advices. I am inspired to changed things in my furniture business

I’m 56 and I have joined Masterclass because of the confinement due to COVID-19. I have learned so much from DVF about life and dreams and achievement that I would put into practice. I’m so happy I have this opportunity to grow


A fellow student

I loved this lesson, I am gaining so much respect for Diane the more I learn about her. Her talk on character in this lesson has helped me look at life in a different way and I'm so thankful I bought the 1 year subscription!

Abdullah T.

Did you know Diane and her husband has a combined net worth of $4 bn, some say that he alone has $1.2 bn net worth. That's wow.

Alejandra P.

Without a doubt, one of the best lessons, excellent content with great value!!

Gabriel C.

What I can take from this lesson is to keep going even if you do mistakes, "fake it till you make it" and "not stop learning" Another lesson from this video is that the right people can really help you succeed. Team work!

Evgenia S.

The powerful words of the powerful woman :) Diana is so brave, gorgeous and really very smart woman designer! I respect her very much!!!

Ona B.

She is amazing and so smart to be able to start the business at her early twenties. Thank you so much for sharing, Madam Diana!

Ana A.

Business model. I no longer feel hopeless now that I know DVF didn’t have a business model when she first started and she could still manage her way in. And it’s encouraging to hear from her that if she’d had to do it all over again, that’s certainly one thing she’d get done before get it going on. Great piece of advice!

Christopher D.

Excellent advice! Thank you! I've learned important lessons in each chapter.

Mia S.

"By 1976, I was on the cover of Newsweek, of the WSJ, of Interview magazine... I was selling 20-25,000 dresses a week. The early 1970s, it was the beginning of the emancipation of women. Fashion was also very crazy,so my fashion wasn't very crazy at all. I was right in-between the polyester and the very very wild, wearing feathers and being bare. I found my niche right in the middle of it. It was very interesting, there was nothing like that anywhere else; women were wearing hard clothes; it was very unique, it was not expensive, it was easy, practical. So it sold. But it sold to a very very wide range of women. The fashion climate, when I started, was definitely on the upswing. It was a liberation, so people wore different things, but then at the same time, I was both proper and liberated. I had lost my identity, my identity was so much relating to my work, my brand, my relationship with women, my consumers - that all of a sudden, I felt like I had fallen off something. I tried to reactivate, try to visit all these companies... but all of it had really disintegrated. I very much wanted to go back to design for that woman, even though that woman wasn't necessarily - I hadn't realized that I had aged. I did not know what was going to be my entrance. Then, all of a sudden, I realized that the young, hip girls, were buying the old wrap dresses in vintage shops. All of a sudden, what I thought was no longer right became very very trendy, as I was turning 50. 'Wow, how can that be?' I went to my factories, and I decided that I wanted to make that same great jersey in 100% silk. Hip girls wore the dresses with combat boots and things like that; I realized that those dresses did not belong in the dress department, they needed to be with the cool, young girls. 'We should come up with a new department.' We invented a new department called 'contemporary' - it wasn't the old dress department, it wasn't the junior. It became the big growing business for the following 12, 15 years. I started again with that one dress that had brought me so much good luck."

Mia S.

"I took my first orders; they were very tiny, 12 of this, 6 of this, and 20 of this, and I then went back to the factory with my orders. When I got shipped, I did not know you had to have the content of the fabric, in English, I went to the warehouse, cross out the Italian words, write English words...The next time around, six months later, when I would show up again in that same hotel, they bought a little more. Then came Bloomingdale's and there was a big order, they were talking about windows and ads... I wasn't prepared, but you pretend. You pretend that you know, pretend that you know, and then you don't know, and then you do know, because you throw yourself into it. Two years went by where I did everything - I didn't have an office, did everything out of my dining room, going back and forth to Italy. Two years into it, I realized there was a little traction, that I had something. But I really needed professional help... When people ask me, If you knew then what you know today, what would you do differently? I would have a business plan; I didn't really have a business plan the first time around. I just wanted to be independent and I found these great dresses and I was going to sell them in America and make a fortune. The second time around, I just wanted to show the world and myself that it hadn't been an accident the first time around, and I wanted to do it again. As the world is changing, as we are surfing the tsunami; as wholesalers disappear, and stores are having difficulties, there is more and more the closeness with the consumer - so now for the first time ever, I'm bringing real experts in my company, after 40 plus years, I am actually doing a business plan, trying to shift the business model. Don't be embarrassed by wanting to learn. Don't be embarrassed to go to somebody and say, Can you please teach me? You have to create your network, weave the people that you meet, that you can connect with, into a fabric, which will be the fabric of your life. Along the way, I did many things wrong. I associated with the wrong companies, who tried to do things that weren't right for the brand. It's OK to make mistakes. The only reason why I was able to survive is because I was always honest. I never lied; when I did things wrong, I said it. In the end, it's all about the product and the consumer. The closer you put the product to the consumer, and the more authentic you are, the more real you are, the longer you will last."