Diane von Furestenber has sold 15 million wrap dresses and raised $100 million for the Statue of Liberty Museum. It was in recognition of both of those achievements, as well as for her support of female leadership, that France awarder her the Chevalier de la Legion D’Honneur last weekin Paris.
The address for the occasion was the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs, a mid-19th-century building on the Quai d’Orsay where the Treaty of Versailles was signed in 1919. A cohort of Von Furestenberg’s family (her son, Alex, and her grandchildren Talita and Taliso), friends (Jeff Bezzos, Larry Gagosian, Natalia Vodianova and Vogue’s Anna Wintour), and fellow designers (Christian Louboutin, Gabriela Hearst, and Julie de Libran) was among those who joined her in the ministry’s grand Napoleon III rooms.
Christian Lagarde, the president of the European Central Bank and former managing director of the International Monetary Fund, presented Von Furstenberg with the prestigious honor. Lagarde had many words of praise, likening her first to the female designers Coco Chanel, Madeleine Vionnet, and Sonia Rykiel, who likewide channeled the zeitgeist of their times. ‘Your wrap dress beautifies women’s bodies without either restricting them or burdening them too much sophistication’, Lagarde said. ‘The woman clothed by Diana von Furstenber is free in her movement and free to take life in her own hands’.
Lagarde then turned to Von Furstenberg’s philanthropy and her recognition of women of strength, courage, and leadership. The Diller-von Furstenber Family Foundation, which Von Furstenberg founded with her husband, Barry Diller, has recognized Anita Hill and Jane Goodball, among many others. ‘A dress can only be truly beautiful if it’s worn with dignity and with elegance, and your support of women’s struggles for independence reflects a generosity and infuses the most perfect and subtle elegance: the elegance of the heart’, said Lagarde.
When the Legion’s five-point cross and red ribbon was affixed to Von Furstenberg’s sparkling velvet dress, she delivered a moving speech of her own. ‘I want to salute what the Statue of Liberty represents: freedom and hope. We need to remember it was originally named Liberty Enlightening the World, and God knows we need it’. She went on: ‘I am accepting this Legion D’Honneur with pride and humility, knowing that recognition and honor give us a voice. And when we have a voice, it is our duty and privilege to use that voice for those who have no voice. My heart is filled with gratitude. Merci and vice Paris!’
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