Why designer Diane von Furstenberg is honoring these women: "They all remind me of my mother"

After more than four decades in the fashion industry, Diane von Furstenberg understands what she's famous for — her iconic wrap dress. "People say I made the dress," she told Mary Elizabeth Williams on “Salon Talks.” "The dress really made me. It paid my bills, it took me everywhere. I learned about life and I learned about women."

The legendary designer is also an author, a business leader, the official godmother of the Statue of Liberty (thanks to her work launching a new museum in her honor) and a tireless champion of other women.

Nearly 10 years ago, von Furstenberg helped launch the DVF Awards to honor "the women who have had the courage to fight, the strength to survive, and the leadership to inspire." The recipients exemplify that imperative— they have included Gabrielle Giffords, Dr. Jane Goodall, Elizabeth Smart and this year's lifetime leadership winner, Anita Hill.

Von Furstenberg, whose mother was liberated from Auschwitz just 18 months before she was born, says, "My big lesson to everyone is about character, and that's what these women have. Character is the only thing that you have 100 percent control of. You could lose everything, including your freedom, but you never lose your character. It's the relationship you have with yourself, and that's what all of these women have." And she says, "They all remind me of my mother."

From launching her career in the seventies, to reinventing her brand in the nineties, to continuing her work as an innovator now, von Furstenberg has continued to thrive because, as she says, "There's negative and positive and the landscape changes, and that's the journey. My mother taught me that fear was not an option, and never to be a victim. Survival is extraordinary."

Watch the episode above to hear more about this year’s DVF Awards honorees and how von Furstenberg shook off critics over the years. “There’s no life that goes up, up, up. That’s not life,” she said.

Photography by Jill Greenberg. Watch Jill's TedxTalk on the Female Lens and the problem with only seeing the world from a man's perspective. And find out more about Jill's initiative Alreadymade., a mission to hire more female photographers and content creators.

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