Wrap Party: Diane von Furstenberg Exhibits at Wilshire May Company (LACMA)

Diane von Furstenberg  in her first published advert, 1974. photo courtesy of Diane von Furstenberg.

Diane von Furstenberg in her first published advert, 1974. photo courtesy of Diane von Furstenberg.

The often regaled fairytale of Diane von Furstenberg's career begins with a striking young woman entering New York City carrying a suitcase of jersey dresses and a dream.  Eventually, she would become one of the most influential designers of our time.  An honor achieved by doing what only a handful of even successful designers can achieve: create a timeless design that becomes synonymous with their brand. Just as Coco Chanel provided the blue print for classic sophistication through the structured suit,  Diane von Furstenberg capitalized on freedom, sensuality and  empowerment with the design known as the wrap dress.

Last night, von Furstenberg concluded a series of opening events for the LA launch of her traveling exhibition Journey of a Dress, with a sold out public interview conducted by W's editor-in-chief Stefano Tonchi . Sponsored by LACMA, Journey of a Dress, is housed in the former Wilshire May Company building.  It is a 40 year celebration of a woman whose vision of femininity and power was effectively translated into a signature garment.

The wrap dress, or 'the envelope' as von Furstenberg also refers to it, was a love letter to the female form.  In its four decades of production it has been sold in hundreds of different prints, solids and fabric ways and worn by women of all shapes and sizes.  From Bianca Jagger entering studio 54 to Michelle Obama leading a tour of the White house, the wrap dress has accompanied the progression of women and survived the fickle popularity pop culture and fashion.

To understand it's success is to understand the woman behind the dress and the DVF empire.  Journey of a Dress is as much a celebration of the fantastical life of von Furstenberg as it is of her designs.  It highlights her long time friendships and style collaboration with celebrities, such as Jagger and most recently Amy Adams for American Hustle, artists such as Andy Warhol and fashion industry mavens such as Diana Vreeland and Anna Wintour.

In her artist interview, von Furstenberg continued to epitomize her trademark sophistication and grace by clarifying the origins of her beginning.  Behind all the success, glamour and her time as a princess (first husband Egon von Furstenberg was a German prince) von Furstenberg  journey began not with the young woman and a suitcase but as a miracle child of dangerously famished holocaust survivor and a doting father.   Despite her humble beginnings, her childhood life goals were clear and easily resonate with so many women. It is her own words that hint at the root of her success :

"When I was a little girl, I did not really know what I wanted to do, but I knew the kind of woman I wanted to be. I wanted to be glamorous, to be able to be independent, to pay for my bills – to have a man’s life in a woman’s body. It turned out that I became that woman thanks to the dress."

Journey of a Dress is open until April 1, 2014 at Wilshire May Company Building.  Tickets are available through the neighboring LACMA building box office.