In reading the brief interview with Diane von Furstenberg in the Wall Street Journal (6/21), I was struck by two remarks she made. The first concerned her love for China, where she has opened several stores: “I love being here, and really truly, if I were younger, I would live here.” I found this disingenuous (read: phony) coming from a woman with homes in NYC, Connecticut, Paris and the Bahamas - all places associated with great luxury and high society. Ms. von Furstenberg, now married to mega-rich Barry Diller, was originally married to Egon von Furstenberg, a German prince who was heir to the Fiat fortune. At the time of her first marriage in 1969, Diane Halfin was a Jewish girl from Belgium whose parents had sent her to finishing schools in Switzerland, Spain and England (read: sent her to mingle with the wealthy). Diane, now a philanthropic do-gooder for politically correct causes, doesn’t strike me as the kind of gal who’d be comfy in China where dissidents are punished immediately and summarily and where the western concept of human rights has little to zero application (read: A Chinese equivalent of DVF wouldn’t have the freedom to express a similar thought about choosing to live here).
Her second comment was in answer to the question “who has been your best role model:” “My mother was my role model. Before I was born, she was a prisoner of war in Germany. She went to the death camps and survived….” A prisoner of war? That is defined as a person, whether civilian or combatant, who is held in custody by an enemy power during or immediately after an armed conflict. Protocols such as the Geneva Conventions apply to prisoners of war who are visited by humanitarian organizations to determine that the code of agreed upon rules of imprisonment are being followed. The Jews of Europe were not fighting any war - they were civilians, stripped of their citizenship, brutally rounded up like vermin, generally with the willing compliance of countries where they had lived for centuries, and sent to concentration camps and death camps for purposes of forced labor, starvation, sadistic torture and experiments, and immediate or eventual extermination. Did the former Princess von Furstenberg think that it elevated her mother’s experience to refer to her as a prisoner of war? Did she feel that since she herself married a German prince, she needed to dignify what was done to her mother with a more military cachet? Was it more chic to choose prisoner of war with its martial connotations over holocaust victim living in filth and excrement? Many designers fashion clothing that reference military style from camouflage cloth to epaulets (read: shlifkes) ; few create clothing to resemble the rags worn at Auschwitz.
Diane von Furstenberg has led a glamorous life, especially since coming to this country and becoming a darling of the media. As a designer, she has had a limited repertoire but that doesn’t gainsay her commercial success ( read: the advantageous marriages she has made). It was disappointing to learn that despite the enormous opportunities she has had as an American, she’d claim to prefer to live in China. It was mind-boggling to see her rewrite the legacy of holocaust victims like her mother with a glossy appellation (read: downright false characterization). It’s unfortunate that neither the Wall Street Journal reporter or editor had the tools to pick up on that comment and ask her what she meant by it. Read: Even fashionistas need deconstructing.
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