04.05.142:48 PM ET

Diane Von Furstenberg Undressed

The iconic designer who is an inspiration to women discusses the women who inspire her.

Diane Von Furstenberg does not want to talk about the wrap dress.  Her famous dress turned 40 this year, but she addressed the 5th annual Women in the World conference to talk about something else.  When Tina Brown launched the women’s summit, Von Furstenberg launched her DVF awards, which are given to women of inspiration along with a $50,000 stipend for the charity of choice.  

This year’s People’s Voice award was presented to Veronika Scott, founder and CEO of The Empowerment Plan whose parents struggled with unemployment, mental health issues and addiction. Von Furstenberg described how Scott designed a coat that could be turned into a blanket for homeless women in Detroit. Now Scott employs the homeless to make the product.  

Other winners included Karen Earl, CEO of the Jenesse Organization that advocates healthy non-violent relationships, Rachel Lloyd who is head of the Gems Girls organization that provides mentoring for young underprivileged women, and Marlene Sanchez, head of The Center for Young Women’s Development against oppression.

Von Furstenberg also gave the Lifetime Achievement Award to Gloria Steinem, who turned 80 last week. Singer Alicia Keys was given the Inspiration award. “To see the strength of these is women is so humbling,” she told Saturday’s audience. “It is so important that we stick together. Every woman inspires every other."


Von Furstenberg, whose own mother was a prisoner of war in Auschwitz when she was just 22, says she was most inspired by her because “She refused to be a victim.”  When she returned to Belgium she was told she would never be able to have a child.  “The day I was born I was a miracle,” Von Furstenberg said.  “I wasn’t supposed to be born.

She said that while she didn’t want to talk about her iconic dress, “That little dress made me independent.  That little dress allowed me to be the woman I wanted to be.” She says her success also gave her a voice. “If you have a little bit more of a voice, the most important thing you can do is give voice to those who don’t.

She said the awards have introduced her to phenomenal women. “You get involved with these women and see what they can do and then you feel so small and you feel I do nothing. I do nothing,” she said.