Bif Bang Empowerment

New York
10.21.08

Left: Debra Messing with Diane von Furstenberg. Right: Vogue's Hamish Bowles. (All photos: Amy Sussman/Getty Images)


Under a full moon, on a weirdly mild October evening, rather than running with the wolves, I found myself in a taxi humming the Wonder Woman theme song as I headed toward Diane von Furstenberg’s sleek white mother ship in the meatpacking district for an evening of ladies’ empowerment. “In your satin tights, fighting for your rights and the old Red, White, and Blue . . .” It was the launch of DvF’s “Wonder Woman Collection” and a limited-edition Wonder Woman–themed comic, illustrated by artist Konstantin Kakanias, featuring DvF herself as a superheroine who bursts onto the scene to remind “Diva, Viva, and Fifa” to “Be the Wonder Woman You Can Be.” With a little help from the entrepreneuress, wrap-dress inventor, and all-around icon of jet-set fabulosity, the ladies triumph over their insecurities. (“A mom who’s never good enough,” excitedly explained a publicist, “wins a baking contest!” A girl who no one believed in becomes a rock star! And a gal who was outmaneuvered by a male colleague speaks up for herself and gets the big job!) An essay by Gloria Steinem traces the history of the cartoon Amazon, lauding her “uncanny ability to unleash the power of self-respect within the women around her; to help them work together and support each other.” A letter from Lynda Carter herself pays tribute to all the early Wonder Women who “encouraged us to let our own unexpressed self soar.” A cover gallery of vintage Wonder Woman comics is yummy proto-feminist eye candy. (“Great Hera! My own reflections are coming out of the mirrors to battle me!”)

The luxurious flagship was like a déjà vu scene out of Sex and the City, packed with a soigné herd who looked like they either shopped at DvF or worked there, and fabuloti who came “for Diane” (pronounced: “Dee-ahn”). I spotted Ahn Duong, the touchstone of a “fashion event,” sporting a graphic limited-edition Wonder Woman tote ($165; “proceeds benefit Vital Voices to help empower women worldwide”) against her long, flowy, mushroom-colored frock; the same “nightie” look was favored by Debra Messing (ubiquitous in those ads for The Starter Wife and about seven feet tall in person). A cheerful Hamish Bowles took a break from schmoozing to palpate a metallic knit sleeve on the rack behind him. Artistic duo McDermott and McGough stopped by, one of them an avid monologuer who told me an artist had to be either “self-conscious” (by which I think he meant calculating) or “obsessive”—which he glossed by saying, “But you can make a house full of Pepsi caps in the woods, and no one will see it.”

Left: Actress Lindsay Price. Right: Diane von Furstenberg.


From splashy tableaux throughout the store, the comic-book graphics reminded us that DvF is Pop royalty. Her classic Warhol portrait joins forces with Wonder Woman’s to spread the good Pop news that every woman can unleash her superpowers via the DvF brand. Where Warhol created superstars, DvF inspires Wonder Women. While Pop stardom meant getting your fifteen minutes of fame, the recent “superheroine” track—the stealth message of “Be the Wonder Woman you can be”—is, of course, shopping. DVF’s figure-flattering frocks and chunky, relatively comfortable high heels are indeed female-friendly fashion. With recession looming like the “monstrous . . . merciless . . . jaws of the Leviathan!” closing in on Wonder Woman in a vintage comic, there was an unintended surrealness to this women’s-lib-meets-shopping moment; a vibe as cartoony as Wonder Woman herself.

I chatted up a patient-looking man whose eleven-year-old daughter had “wrangled an invite for herself. She’s all about DvF,” he said, with an indulgent wince.

“Nice wrap dress,” I said to the precocious fashionista.

“It’s Calypso,” she said, scanning for her idol. “Do you think she’s here?”

On cue, just like in the comic, DvF herself appeared right near us, looking handsome, supportive, and chic in a bronze leather peplum jacket over black.

“That’s her!” I told the tot.

“Awesome!” she enthused, then vamped like a pro for a cameraperson who caught her eye.

“Awesome!” said the photographer.

Rhonda Lieberman