It's a wrap: fashion icon wins charity prize

Nicola Loftus (left), Diane von Furstenberg and Dame Gail Ronson

Nicola Loftus (left), Diane von Furstenberg and Dame Gail Ronson

Real life Jewish princess and fashion pioneer Diane von Furstenberg cut an impressive figure for Jewish Care when she was honoured as its Woman of Distinction.

The designer, best known for her wrap dress, told around 300 women at London’s Langham Hilton how her life was shaped by her mother Liliane Nahmias, an Auschwitz survivor.

Ms von Furstenberg was born in Brussels in 1946, 18 months after her mother was liberated, then weighing little more than three stone.

“She shielded me from the ugliness that had happened to her and only spoke of the camaraderie and the faith in God that she had. There is no question that her being a survivor has made me the way I am. She has given me the idea that freedom is so important... and one of the best lessons she gave me was that fear was not an option.”

Ms von Furstenberg met Prince Egon of Furstenberg at university at the age of 18 and they married in 1969. They had two children but divorced after three years together.

She now lives in New York, having married American media mogul Barry Diller in 2001.

She launched the wrap dress in 1973 and now retails her DVF fashion range worldwide through stores in cities including London, Tokyo, Madrid and Moscow.

“I lived an American dream and became the woman I wanted to become and made other women become the women they wanted to be.” But the 62-year-old reiterated the debt she owed her mother.

“When I pray, I always thank God for saving my mother and giving us life. I thank her for the strength she gave me and how she made me strong and courageous and appreciate being a woman. To be a woman to her was an advantage and privilege and I totally agree.”

The lunch raised a record £100,000 for people with mental health needs.Woman of Distinction committee chair Nicola Loftus thanked guests for their generosity, which was “particularly impressive because of today’s financial climate”.

She read a letter from the Prime Minister’s wife, Sarah Brown, in which Ms von Furstenberg was described as an “inspiration to many”.

    Last updated: 4:22pm, November 26 2009