How I Spend It: Diane von Furstenberg on Love Letters



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I was fortunate enough to buy my country house in Connecticut when I was 26 with the first money from my wrap dresses, and now, 47 years later, every thing there is an expression of love.

There are pieces from my father that I sometimes give to others for luck. It usually works, although the last one I gave to Hillary Clinton didn’t work. There are paintings, including pieces by Andy Warhol, that would come to my house and give me a very small painting of flowers or Studio 54 tickets. When I married my husband Barry [Diller], he offered me 26 wedding rings because he had waited 26 years for me. They are each exactly the same. Actually, there are 25 now, because I gave one. I don’t know if Barry knows that. But it does not matter. One went to a lady I met in Mexico at a women’s conference: her child had been kidnapped and I wanted to do something for her but I didn’t know what to do, so I gave her the ring that I wore. The rings themselves aren’t listed, but Barry wrote me a cute note to go with them.

I have a whole cupboard full of books signed by authors, including Alberto Moravia and Truman Capote. I also like to donate books. There is nothing I love more than books. When I was little I would go from room to room with all my books in hand because I didn’t know which one to choose. Then one day I was asked what I wanted to do and I said, I don’t know, what can you do if you like books, and they said to me, well you can be a librarian . But my school librarian had bad breath so I didn’t think I wanted to be a librarian.

Diane von Furstenberg with Andy Warhol and actress Monique van Vooren in New York, 1974 © Getty Images

At its New York HQ

At its New York HQ © Dorothy Hong

For me, the token of love is not just a gift, it must have meaning. I like to give things that are done on purpose for an individual or that will remind them of a shared memory or whatever our complicity. I have a friend Konstantin Kakanias, who is an artist, illustrator, and he has made plaques representing me throughout my life – me doing this, me doing that. So I entrusted him with the realization of a whole set of personalized plates for each of my children and it is the best gift I have ever given them. My son Alexander’s favorite is one of his little boys playing the role of a businessman; this is very cute.

But above all, for me the most important tokens of love you can give are words. The only thing I insist on giving and being given by others is the letters. I forced my poor children to write me letters when they were little. I trained them to. It doesn’t come naturally. At Christmas I write serious letters to all of my family and if I have close friends to stay then I write to them too. Everyone should also write me a letter and I like the letters I receive to be illustrated. Recently my granddaughter Talita did a beautiful eye and lip painting – she said it was a self portrait but as she painted it she was thinking about me and how alike we are. I tend to get a lot of lip representations. I did lip prints and the lip is a logo that I have always used. I keep next to me on my desk a glass lip from my other granddaughter when she was in summer camp.

One of her fall / winter 2006 looks

One of her fall / winter 2006 looks © Getty Images

With her husband Barry Diller in West Hollywood, 2013

With her husband Barry Diller in West Hollywood, 2013 © Getty Images

I have the love letters that my parents wrote to each other during the war with the blue line because it was the occupation and therefore everything went through censorship. And I have the love letters that I got from each of my boyfriends and husbands. In addition to writing letters, I have kept a journal throughout my life. I write it in French. I’ve never been to therapy and I think one of the reasons is that my journal has been my friend. I know someone might read them someday, if they can read the writing. Thinking back, I find that no matter where I open the page, it always says I’m at a turning point. So it seems all my life all I ever did was shoot.

Every year I buy a new Smythson newspaper and in the old one all the letters from the previous year are inserted. I open my diary here and see what my husband wrote to me a little over a year ago: “My darling, no conflict, no struggle, this is my Christmas wish, we have all need you strong, determined and happy. It is recognition. Or my son: “I will always put family first, Alex. Or it comes from Talita: “You are so much more to me than my grandmother.” You are more to me than anyone. I love you unconditionally forever. Your strength, your courage, your kindness and your love. I guess they like me.

Owning: The Secret of Life by Diane von Furstenberg (Phaidon) is released on March 8 for £ 9.95


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