Yesterday I attended a great conference, the OPEN for Women: CEO BootCamp, which was held in New York City. The event, hosted by American Express OPEN, the small business division of the financial services company, was designed to teach women entrepreneurs the fundamental pillars for successful ventures: confidence, competence and connections.
A highlight of the event was a Q&A with Diane von Furstenberg, the woman, the designer and the brand. Besides offering her thoughts on the keys to successful leadership, von Furstenberg was there promoting her new book, “The Woman I Wanted to Be,” which chronicles her life as a fashion “tycooness.” von Furstenberg was also promoting her recently released coffee table book, “Journey of a Dress,” which celebrates the 40th birthday of the designer’s iconic wrap dress, as well as an E! reality television show launched this week called “House of DVF,” where eight young women compete to be the first-ever DVF global brand ambassador.
At the start of her Q&A session with Janey Whiteside, senior vice president and general manager, customer marketing and engagement at American Express, von Furstenberg mentioned she was tired, having just been to the star-studded funeral of designer Oscar de la Renta, and jokingly asked if she could wear her sunglasses during the talk.
The discussion was broad, littered with “life is a journey”-type metaphors and aphorisms, so I thought I’d offer some of them here. Enjoy!
- “You have to find your door. Fashion happened to be my door.”
- “I cannot ever minimize the power of confidence. Confidence is everything. But the problem is you can’t fake confidence.”
- “Some days I’m confident and some days I feel like a loser. There are no successful people who don’t feel like losers.”
- “You have to have your truth. Believe in your truth, work for it and continue to stay on brand. It’s not easy. Even when you’re successful it’s hard to stay there. It’s all about the relationship with your self.”
- “I was lucky to empower myself. So it’s my role, my duty, my pleasure, my joy to try to empower others. My mission is to empower women.”
- “I tell my granddaughters [ages 14 and 15] every night to first say thank you for all the things you have and then think about the women you want to be because if you think it you will be it.”
- “What was my biggest challenge? I don’t remember, because I always turned something that was bad into something great, so I don’t remember what was bad.”
- On von Furstenberg’s famous wrap dress: “I never tried to make a fashion statement. But now I look back and I realize that my dress wasn’t a fashion statement, it was a sociological statement.”
- “It’s important to stay close to the young.”
- “Style is not what you wear, but what you are.”
- On what she enjoys most about being a business owner: “Nobody else owns it.”