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tv   The David Rubenstein Show Peer to Peer Conversations  Bloomberg  January 28, 2022 9:00pm-9:30pm EST

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♪ david: this is my, uh, my kitchen table and also my filing system. over much of the past three decades, i've been an investor. [applause] the highest calling of mankind, i've often thought, was private equity. [laughter] and then i started interviewing. i watched your interviews, so i know how to do some interviewing. [laughter] i've learned from doing my interviews how leaders make it to the top. >> i asked him how much he wanted. he said $250,000. i said fine. i did not negotiate with him and i did no due diligence. david: i have something i would like to sell. [laughter] and how they stay there. you don't feel inadequate now because being only the second wealthiest man in the world, is
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that right? [laughter] diane von furstenberg may be best known to women around the world as the creator of the iconic wrap dress. but in addition to running her fashion company, she has been deeply involved in philanthropy. she helped to create the high line and little island on the westside of new york. she is leading the effort to raise money for the ellis island foundation. i had a chance to sit down with her recently to talk about her life and dedication to philanthropy and her family. so let me ask you about something i can say i am not an expert on, which is fashion. nobody has ever considered me a fashion plate. uh, you invented something called the wrap dress 40 plus years ago. diane: almost 50 years. david: it is one of the most famous designs in the last 50 years and women are still wearing it, so tell me, were you surprised that after almost 50 years that women are still wearing the same design, obviously different dress, but
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same design as something popular almost 50 years ago? diane: yeah, i mean, people say i created the wrap dress but , which is true, but really the wrap dress created me. because of that dress, i became the woman i wanted to be. i became independent. by being independent, it paid for my children's education, it paid for my house in the country, it paid for my apartment. so it made me free and made me liberated. it was the time of women's liberation. so, and because it was a dress, the more confident i became and the more confident i was passing on this confidence to other women with as little dress that i would go around and wrap around women's bodies. and so in a sense now that i
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look back now that i'm an older woman and so on, i look back and it is almost like i was a conduit, you know, a conduit for confidence, for many generations of women. david: so, how long did it take to develop the wrap dress? was it something that came to you like that or was it many years? how did it develop? diane: when i was 20, i was out of college and did not do what i wanted to do, but i knew what i kind of woman i wanted to be, and that was a woman in charge, so which one will it be? i thought maybe fashion. at first, i worked in paris for a fashion photographer's agent. that got me, wow, i discovered the world of fashion, then i met the father of a friend of the brother of my boyfriend, but ever, in italy, and he said, you know, you should come and discover the other side of
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fashion, where we make fashion. so then i discovered all about printing, you know, how you buy artwork and how you put it in repeat, and how you print it, and you work with the colorist, and learn how to do a color palette, so it was really a craft. so i did not think any of this was going to be useful to me at all, but it was very interesting. i then went to america for the first time to visit my boyfriend. my mother gave me a ticket to go to new york and visit him and i discovered new york and could not believe it. i was 19. yeah, i couldn't believe it. i said, i have to come back here. and also, while i was in new york, because my boyfriend then was a young, very attractive prince, so he was very much, you know, in demand in new york. he was very good-looking. and because he was in
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demand and i came as his girlfriend, all the designers wanted to lend me clothing and blah, blah, blah. while i was here -- i stayed about a month, i think -- i discovered so much. i discovered new york. i discovered all of these young designers. and when i went back, all i could think about is how do i get back to new york, how do i get back to new york? and when i went back to work in the factory, all of a sudden, i looked at everything there and said, oh, there is my door. there is an opportunity. let me try to make some easy, easy little dresses that i can go and sell in america. and that is how i started. so, i would stay late at night with the pattern maker and make some samples and so on. david: for those watching who may not be fashion experts, what exactly is a wrap dress? what was so unique about it?
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diane: you wrap your body. david: ok. diane: so it started from these little sweaters that ballerinas wear, you know, when they get cold. it is like a kimono, right? a japanese kimono, but very tight, and because it was jersey, you wrap it very tight. david: ok. diane: that was the difference. it is just a wrap dress. it was printed because i was in this print factory. so it was first a wrap dress with a wrap skirt. and it did really well. then i said, i have got to turn it into a dress. then it became a dress. and before i knew, at the age of 26, i was making 25,000 wrap dresses a week. david: and you became very famous. diane: and i became very famous. david: there was a story that
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that newsweek was going to put gerald ford the president of the united states on the cover, but they went with you. diane: for winning his primary. yes, but that i discovered it was the month of march. and the month of march is usually when they want subscription renewals, and so they would think that maybe i would be -- david: a more attractive woman on the cover might be better. diane: -- would be a more attractive woman on the cover. david: ok. let's go back a moment. you grew up in what country? diane: belgium. david: your mother was a survivor of auschwitz? is that right? diane: yes. david: how did she survive auschwitz? she weighed 59 pounds when she came out. diane: 49. david: 49. diane: how do you survive? i don't know. i don't know. very, very, very few people survived. she survived. she was 22. i mean, she got arrested, she was 21. she stayed, no she stayed 14
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months and she really got arrested very late, it was may 1944, but she worked while she was there, she worked at the factory. so while, you know, while you were working, they won't kill you, so that is the first thing, and then after that, there was the famous death march and they went and walked to another camp. a lot of people died on the march. she thought she was going to die on the march but she didn't. and then after that, as they were losing the war, they pushed back more and then she ended up in another camp, and then one day, the germans had gone and then the russians came and raped every girl, then after that, the americans arrived. david: your mother had a tattoo at auschwitz. diane: two. david: two. did you ever ask when you were
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little what it was? diane: everybody asked. then she had it removed. she had one number, then crossed , and another number. for me, it was not odd because i had always seen it. i knew she had been to the camp. i mean, you know, there was a little talk about it, but she shielded me from it all without making it a big mystery. david: you are in your 20's, you made a lot of money by any standard, and you're are the queen of the fashion world, how do you top that? diane: there is no such thing as going to the top, top, top, and continuing to go to the top. ♪
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♪ david: so, you come to new york. you are the queen of york, or the princess of new york because you are very young in your 20's. you made a lot of money by any
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normal standard. you are the queen of the fashion world, let's say, right? so how do you top that? diane: there are no such thing as going to the top, top, top, and continuing to go to the top. also, i think it is really important, i always make a point to tell people that sometimes when you are at the very top, that time i was on the top of "newsweek" and on the front page of "the wall street journal" and everybody was buying my dresses, and i was acclaimed as a big excess success, i myself already knew that things were so easy, because in a way i had saturated the market, you know? david: right. everybody had a wrap dress and nobody needed to buy a wrap dress. diane: that's right. everybody had many wrap dress. david: did your business go down? diane: yes. then i licensed it. and then coming you know, life is like, you go is you go. -- as you go. so i licensed my dress business to a company that i thought had
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more experience than i did and they continued to develop it. then i decided something else and decided i was going to start a cosmetic company. david: while you were doing that, you led the very interesting life of a socialite in the 1970's in new york, meeting with andy warhol and other people. what was that life like? everybody was famous who was young was a friend of yours it seemed. diane: new york city in the 1970's was many things. one thing, it was very dirty. it was very dangerous. and it was very cheap. and therefore, a lot of artists were here. it was a very exciting time. it was a time that people wanted freedom. we thought, our generation thought, we invented freedom, which of course we didn't. and it was fun. there were a lot of creative people. and andy warhol was everywhere, and there was a lot of other people. and it was fun, but it is always
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fun when you are young. david: andy warhol said, hey, i will paint a picture of you. was that happening a lot? diane: andy warhol did my first portrait. he was looking for a white wall. he would take a polaroid and use the polaroid and paint from there and he needed a white wall. and in my home they had no white walls, so we went to the kitchen, and because the white wall in my kitchen was so tiny, i lifted my arms and it was the first time he painted me, then he painted me later for a show he was planning to do in the 1980's called "beauties." david: did he give you the paintings? diane: he gave me -- ok, he gave one. i bought two. the second time he gave me one, i but none. and when he died, i bought them
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all. david: let me ask you, your business is moving forward. you are in the cosmetic business. you are getting into other businesses, fragrance and other things. life sounds like it is great. everything is going well. at some point, did all the businesses go down and after a while it was not so good? diane: there are always ups and downs, and ups and downs. i had the first phase of my life is very much an american dream, ok? i lived a true american dream, really. i was young. i was inexperienced. and i became very successful. after that, you know, i had other things, and finally, i ended up selling the cosmetics, and then of course, by then, my children are teenagers. so they went to boarding school. at that time i decided i went back to europe. i lived in paris for a few years, then i came back here, and then by then, my brand was
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really, wow, it was like bad. it was in discount stores. everybody had done everything. and that was difficult. that was a difficult time for me to see, because everything until then was great and wonderful. even when it wasn't great and wonderful, it was still exciting, but then coming back, i mean, and seeing the brand and the people in charge of the brand, and they didn't care. i mean, there was no spirit. there was no messaging, nothing. that was really difficult. and, i don't know if it is as result of that, but at the same time, i also had a cancer. i had a cancer at the base of my tongue. and i think it has something to do with the fact i could not express myself.
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anyways, so i dealt with that, and i also dealt with taking back my name and starting again. david: you started all over the company now known as dvf, your initials. that company began to re-create some things you did before, including the wrap dress, and it turns out it was more popular than it even had been before, practically, so was that a surprise that wrap dresses were still so popular? diane: you know when it is your life, i mean, you know, it is one day after another day after another day. it is only when you look back that you are surprised. when you look back and have time to say, oh, that was great. when you are living it, you are just surviving. you know, a young woman, two children, i separated so quickly from my husband, then a lot to do, running a company, so i did not have the time to think, am i surprised?
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am i what? david: what does dvf now do? diane: well, actually dvf has , been many, many products over the years. after covid and all of the change, you know, covid was also a moment of resetting, right? so, i don't want, i can't say take advantage of something as negative as covid, but we were forced to look at the business model and reset the business model. david: because under covid, people were not going out in fashions, right? they were not wearing fancy clothing? diane: also, stores were closed. it is a lot of different things at the same time, and of course, the business online, so it was a moment to reset. david: how is the business today? diane: well, it is being reset. it is actually very interesting. i am a very positive person.
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my mother was a survivor, right? so as a survivor, life is what matters, right? as the daughter of a survivor, the minute i was born, i mean, she was not supposed to survive. i was not supposed to be born. and yet, i was born. so i realize that the moment of my birth was already a victory. so anything that happened after that was a plus. david: so the company run today you run today is a privately owned company. have you ever thought of taking your company public? diane: no, but, you know, right now it is important for me, now is the legacy moment of my life, right? now is the time that you look back at your life and i am happy to see that somehow it is coherent. i was born on new year's eve. so every year, i make resolutions. so i designed my life in three columns. one is my family.
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one is my business and my brand. and one is me. so looking back now on my life, i look at my family, you know, my two children, five grandchildren, and i am very proud of them, of who they are, of the people they are, that they are not banal. they are fun, they are interesting, they are generous, and they care. then there is my brand. so, there also i had to reset the brand and make sure it was close. because sometimes when you grow, you lose your initial spirit, your initial reason to be, and then the third part, me, is about the impact, is about using all the things i have, my voice, my experiences, my knowledge, my
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memories, my experiences, my resources, and using that in order to make other women be the woman they want to be. ♪
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david: so, you and your husband separated, ultimately divorced. diane: that was a long time ago. david: a long time ago, and you married barry diller. diane: after i separated from the father of my children, i met barry. and we fell in love and were together for five years, but i guess, again, it was the 1970's, and it was important for me to
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experience, and so, we separated and i lived my life, but we kept very close. i also kept very close to my first husband, and somehow barry and i knew we would end up together. and then about 20 years ago, we got married. david: ok and both of you together have been extremely successful in the business world, and also in philanthropy. let me ask you about the your philanthropy. you and your husband helped to create the high line. diane: well, when i started the company again -- when was it? 1997, i say why am i renting those expensive offices uptown. let me buy a little building downtown. and i came in this neighborhood
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the meatpacking, full of butchers. there were only butchers. and i bought a little carriage house. i decided to make that my showroom and my office, and everybody said, what are you doing there? who wants to go and work there? it smells so bad, blah, blah, blah. i did it anyway. when you move to a new neighborhood, you meet your neighbors, and i met these two young guys who had a dream, and the dream was to transform this elevated railway that was abandoned and turn it into a park. and it was going to be knocked down. anyway, those two guys had this dream, and they saw my studio and they said, do you think we could do a fundraising in your studio? and that is how my relationship with the neighborhood and with
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the high line started. so once we turned this neighborhood into a historical preservation, then somehow we turn, convinced, turned around the high line, and it was very difficult because all the developers wanted the real estate. the same developers by the way now are so proud to be on the high line. the high line became the number one destination for tourists. david: you are now involved in helping to repair the ellis island buildings, is that right? diane: well, yes. first, i was on the board of the foundation of the statue of liberty ellis island. and the first thing i did was raise money to create the museum for the statue of liberty, so i got very close to her, lady liberty. i did not want to do it. i really didn't want to. i said, if i go on another board, my husband would be
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upset. and then he read my book, "the man who wanted to get me." and in my book, he read my mother had written me a note saying, "god saved me so that i can give you life. by giving you life, you gave me my life back. you are therefore my torch of freedom." so he underlined that and said, you see, you have to come and help the statue of liberty. david: so, the the hardest thing in life i have often said is to be happy, but you seem like a happy person. diane: it is like nature. nothing ever stops, so you could be super happy one minute then something happens, so it is just , it is just living. it is the joy of life. david: for any young woman watching this that wants to be the next diane von furstenberg, what would you recommend? diane: the most important thing in life is the relationship you have with yourself. once you have a good relationship with yourself, any
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other relationship is a plus, and not a must. and the second advice is to be as true to yourself as you possibly can, and it is not easy, and you have to accept and own things you may not like, but the more you can be you, the happier you will be. ♪
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francine: few have managed to capture the fashion and business world like the british handbag designer anya hindmarch. she has won fans around the world with her range of luxury bags, turning her label into a fashion powerhouse. anya: it is fun starting a businesses. i started my business officially at 18, but i knew i wanted to do it differently

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