I have mentioned the need for clarity and consistency between one’s content and visual image in previous blog posts. There are many entrepreneurial truisms that are espoused ad nauseum – be true to oneself/ never look back/ always move forward/ dont get stuck in the past/ just keep swimming (Ok – I pinched this one from the movie Nemo, but it is nevertheless something to mutter as you plough through each day!). It seems like while having your own business can be a lonely place, many have made a fortune selling to this community – self help books, conferences on building your network, coping with setbacks and striking a balance. I have a feeling it is much like the diet industry – we keep buying the products and have never been fatter!
I had the very good fortune to attend Business Chick’s recent lunch for Diane Von Furstenberg and the ‘rags to riches’ story of her success was universal in its resonance, however I was struck by some of DVF’s anecdotes for other reasons. The golden thread through the history of her eponymous wrap dress’ success, was that she seized opportunities and backed these up with hard work. While she wasn’t always sure of the direction, she kept moving forward. It was hard work over fancy titles that secured her success, which seems to be stronger now than ever, rendering the DVF label with iconic fashion status.
Early in her career, Diane had the opportunity to learn everything about the business and rag trade from a mentor, Italian textile manufacturer Angelo Ferretti, where she had an apprenticeship. When she took her “cute little dresses that fit in a handbag” to the US, she had an opportunity through connections to meet with the then editor of Vogue, Dianne Vreeland to show her samples. Diane explained that as she was hurridly packing away her pieces after her appointment, the intimidating Editor’s assistant noted that Dianne liked her and would help her in her career. DVF responded by asking what she should do next, and was advised to book a fancy hotel suite for showings to media and fashion buyers and to list her business on the Fashion Calendar. Diane did both and as they say, history was made with 5-million wrap dresses sold in 1976 alone!
After a successful stint in fashion publishing, following the sale of her DVF label, Diane noted that her brand had been diluted and fashionistas were seeking out her original dresses from thrift stores. This inspired her to relaunch the brand, proving that she was far from a one-hit wonder, and here to stay. This time around she is more savvy and more comfortable in her own skin, enabling her to focus on empowering other women to follow their dreams.
The moral to this story is that the focus needs to be on being surrounded by people who believe in you, are willing share their connections and experience while you need to be open to advice, learning and flexibility – and keep moving forward!