On September 23rd, former U.S. Ambassador Melanne Verveer and co-founder of global women’s organization Seneca Women Kim Azzarelli hosted the second annual Fast Forward: Women’s Innovation Forum at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The forum included a range of conversations between women leaders and innovators, from Chelsea Clinton and Ireland’s first female president Mary Robinson, to mega girl power Girl Scout troops, to honorary man of the day, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Muhammad Yunus.
But maybe the most inspiring part of the afternoon (and there were many) came courtesy of fashion icon, philanthropist, activist and generally-genius woman, Diane von Furstenberg, who, in a conversation with Verveer, made us all realize that if we ever needed an imaginary best friend (don’t we all?) to dish about men, the struggles of growing into your own skin, and the hardships of being a woman – she’d be it.
“It’s funny, I relate a lot to millennials,” she said when Verveer talked about how millennials seem to want a balance of success and purpose, achieving success but doing so for a cause. “When I was 25, that was what I wanted, and I got it very quickly.” von Furstenberg continued. And she certainly did. In addition to her iconic career in fashion, successfully dressing and empowering women for over four decades by constantly developing career-wear at its coolest (and most patterned), she has also been a voice for women’s causes and organizations during most of her professional life. And in 2010, she established the DVF Awards, which has honored women leaders and feminists such as Gloria Steinem, Hillary Clinton and Ingrid Betancourt.
Finding your own strength seemed to be the red thread throughout the entire afternoon, and von Furstenberg talked about how finding one’s own strength, before turning to others for it, is always the best thing for women and girls to do, and to do as early on as possible. "The most important relationship you will have in life is the one you have with yourself. That’s the number one rule for your own strength, your own confidence. You may have wonderful relationships but you could lose them. You could lose your mother, your husband, your health, your wealth, but you will never lose your character.”
Finding one’s own confidence and independence as a woman, and not being dependent on anyone else for it, has always been one of the pillars of women’s liberation. Von Furstenberg took that narrative into a contemporary context as she talked about how young women today should create a strong relationship with themselves, before fearlessly interacting with the world, and be willing to open every door — even the least glamorous one. “Believe in yourself and continue that dialogue with yourself, then you can look at the world. And when you’re young, just be curious. Look at all the doors that are in front of you, and the least glamorous door may be your door. So push the door and be open, to everyone and to everything.”
And also to never underestimate the power of being a serious girl. “If you’re serious at the base, you can be frivolous on the top.” she said with a shrug of her signature DVF green-yellow-black-printed shoulders.
But before leaving the stage, Diane von Furstenberg said what most women in the room seemed to need to hear in the age of Trump, and the sometimes hard nature of staying optimistic and trusting that inner strength that she was talking about earlier, when the time and the world around you sometimes makes it impossible. “Women are so strong, so just take it for granted that you are strong, just take it for granted. Don’t doubt your strength. Because if you doubt your power, you give power to to your doubts.”
And she said it with such pizazz and confidence that even I, the most convinced and anxious worrier, was willing to stop doubting in my own power – at least for that night.
Top photo: David Shankbone/Wikimedia Commons
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Amanda Brohman is a 23-year old editorial intern at BUST, a freelance writer, blogger and fashion journalism student at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York. She loves everything that glitters, taking long walks in and around her SoHo neighborhood, and drinking Chardonnay on her fire escape at midnight whilst listening to Halsey.