Headshot of Diane von Furstenberg

Get an inside look into the book celebrating Diane von Furstenberg’s iconic wrap dress

Apr 30, 2024

We are excited to introduce Belgian author Nicolas Lor to talk about his exhibition & book, “Diane von Furstenberg: Woman Before Fashion“. In the book, Lor discusses getting to know von Furstenberg as both a designer and a woman, and how he translates his understanding of her vibrant personality to readers and museum goers.

What led you to write this book?

Diane von Furstenberg: Woman Before Fashion is the first collective book linked to an exhibition about Diane von Furstenberg. It is a reference book about her work, written by academics.

It does not copy the exhibition content but instead, it highlights and deals with some strong features in Diane von Furstenberg’s life and career even deeper.

Through this book I wanted to emphasize DVF’s work through my own eyes, interests and words. To me editing a book can be so similar to curating an exhibition: Diane gave me the opportunity to imagine this object and helped me so much with her great experience, while allowing me a lot of freedom. I had the chance to delve into her professional and personal universe which is, from a curatorial point of view, a unique opportunity to understand the topic you are going to deal with.

What takeaways do you hope people get from the book?

I do hope people will be able to see Diane von Furstenberg the way I met her, with her intimate, intellectual, colorful and joyful world. I hope the interviews will give them a bit of the life moments Diane experienced herself. I hope the blazing prints sections will show how incredible Diane’s mastering of colors and patterns is. I hope the reader will be happy to delve into essays that offer brand new perspectives about the wrap dress itself, Diane and feminism or her American Dream in the 1970s. Every reader can find something to relate to when reading this book, like they could when meeting Diane. 

What did you learn while writing this book?

I learned a lot about creative teams at DVF and the graphic design studio we worked with! One thing I loved most was interviewing people.

How did you go about writing & researching for the book?

Researching for the book clearly connected to researching for the exhibition, except it gave me the opportunity to widen what I was able to concentrate in a museum’s space.

My research consisted of going through magazine archives such as Vogue Paris, Harper’s Bazaar or WWD from the late 1960s until today, reading a complete DVF-related bibliography and leading interviews with Diane and her close team.

Will you tell us about the exhibit in Brussels? 

Woman Before Fashion. Diane von Furstenberg is the first exhibition ever dedicated to the work and life of Diane von Furstenberg in Europe, on the initiative of a museum.

Although it is not a retrospective, this exhibition, which I curated with the great support of DVF and her team, coincides with the printed jersey wrap dress’ 50th anniversary.

With loans from mainly DVF Archives but also Repetto, Sonia Rykiel and famous museums, the exhibition takes the visitor on a journey that underlines strong features in DVF’s career. Its title, Woman Before Fashion, mirrors the exhibition with 4 chapters: starting with the history and context of the wrap dress, the inspirations in DVF’s work, her American Dream, and finally her advocacy for women through her brand and her philanthropic endeavors.

How did you determine who to interview for the book?

This was a really hard choice to make among the numerous people Diane has met, worked with or become friends with during her life.

I had to focus on several time frames of her life and career, several geographical zones, as well specialty fields (manufacturing, creating, catwalking, selling…). I think my main concern was really to incorporate several generations, and different types of people, from the superstar model to the very first patternmaker of the wrap dress!

How did DVF change how women dressed/dress? + What were some of the key factors in DVF’s success?

Diane von Furstenberg is not a fashion designer. To me, she is a designer in the field of fashion. She managed to conceive an item in fashion that was (and still is) comfortable with a utilitarian perspective, produced on an industrial scale with an accessible price with her own taste and aesthetics. She clearly embodies an idea of design in fashion and is a unique figure in the world of fashion. I do think women (and also men!) really love DVF’s designs because of their simplicity,  the comfort they give to one’s body and mind, and how they are actually echoing (or evoking) our daily life in a very honest way. Like other designers such as Sonia Rykiel or Gabrielle Chanel, she used her daily life as a starting point to create a wardrobe that could be shared with other women, who, undeniably, would acknowledge her point her view.

What’s next for you?

I will keep on working at the Fashion & Lace Museum on the curation of several upcoming fashion exhibitions: Valens (which was a very famous Belgian high end luxury fashion house which ceased in 1976) for the remainder of 2024, as well as on two 80s/90s-connected fashion subjects for 2025! As for my expertise on DVF, I am not allowed to say it yet, but Woman Before Fashion might be traveling outside Europe soon…

Where can people find you?

I am working as Curator for contemporary fashion collections at the Fashion & Lace Museum in Brussels! Otherwise, on Instagram: @nikolalor or LinkedIn: Nicolas Lor.

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