“Diane von Furstenberg: The Woman in Charge” Review: Hulu Fashion Doc

The commitment Diane von Furstenberg: woman in charge begins with a clip from David Letterman’s late-night show, where he introduces the designer with: “Welcome to the woman who reinvented the dress.” He laughed and said, “Really? Have you reinvented the dress? But this grand statement is not entirely false. In the 1970s, von Furstenberg’s wrap dress was more than a trendsetter. Like the person who appears in this largely first-person documentary, the dress has become emblematic of a professional yet sexy independent woman.

This is part of the story, told by von Furstenberg in the film with wit and flair. The strength of the documentary, however, lies in its intimate look at his entire whirlwind life. The child of a Holocaust survivor, she became a jet-setter, business mogul and philanthropist. She married a prince then a tycoon without ever losing her own identity.

Diane von Furstenberg: woman in charge

The essential

Hagiography, but fascinating.

Place: Tribeca Film Festival (opening night)
Release date: Tuesday June 25
Cast: Diane von Furstenberg
Directors: Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Trish Dalton

1 hour 37 minutes

Much of what von Furstenberg says here, she has said before, in interviews or in her two memoirs, notably The woman I wanted to be (2014). But in telling her story on screen, she has an inviting style, full of confidence and self-possession that is at the heart of her brand and defines the documentary style. The film presents its subject in brilliant terms, but it’s also consistently fascinating and gracefully and unflashyly directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Cinoy and Trish Dalton. (Obaid-Conoy has won two Oscars for short films and is set to direct Daisy Ridley in Star Wars: New Jedi Order.)

The lesser-known part of von Furstenberg’s story, supported by family photos, begins during his childhood in Brussels. She was born 18 months after her mother was freed from Auschwitz, emaciated and warned by doctors not to have children. Von Furstenberg credits her mother with the determination that shaped her own life.

In her early twenties, she married wealthy playboy Prince Egon von Furstenberg, and remembers the frosty reception her aristocratic German family gave his middle-class Jewish wife. In a sentence that reflects her ironic tone, she says: “When I went to Furstenberg Castle, I said to myself: ‘Maybe they will poison me.’

She also began designing, creating wrap tops inspired by the ones ballerinas wear to rehearsal, but in bright jersey prints. According to her, fashion was only a means to gain independence, not a passion. She moved to New York, where her business flourished, and she and the indefatigable bisexual prince became the hip couple of the moment. But she was soon no longer in a relationship. “For me, divorce was freedom,” she recalls.

All alone, she struck…

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