D is for dress. D is for Determination. D is for Diane, as in DVF or Diane Von Furstenberg, doyenne of the ubiquitous jersey wrap dress and now also president of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. On day three of New York Fashion Week, three major trends have emerged for spring 2007. There's the dress, which, according to designers like DVF and newcomer Thakoon Panichgul, is best worn short and swingy and in some tangy, Day-Glo color like cherry red or peony pink. There is the very short hemline, terrifying for anyone over the age of 30. And there's volume, which seems to appear most frequently as a kind of upside-down tulip skirt or a big puff sleeve.
But determination is the underlying theme of all successful fashion shows these days. Watching DVF's show, I was reminded of a conversation with her over ten years ago at lunch. Curled up at a corner table at Cipriani, Von Furstenberg recounted the trials and humiliations of having sold her name in many licensing deals and trying to buy it back or close out the licensing agreements. It was 1993 and she had just moved back to New York from Paris where she had lived for a few years, not working in fashion. Now she was hoping to rebuild her businessa venture that seemed misguided at the time. Her name had been so downgraded in the world of fashion and she herself was very removed from the scene. But there wasand still isa determination about Diane. "See that man over there," she said, pointing to a retailer from a major department store lunching at a nearby table. "He won't even give me the time of day, but you'll see, in a few years he'll be eating out of my hand." Lo and behold, these many years later, DVF has built the empire back up with the same simple concept she launched in 1975 when she introduced her jersey wrap dress for $75. It's a bit more expensive nowadays, but it's as fashionable and ubiquitous as it was thirty years ago. And there in the front row at DVF's show was every major retailer in American fashion.
A similar kind of determination drove Thakoon Panichgul to study fashion design at night at Fashion Institute of Technology while he worked a day job as an assistant at Harper's Bazaar. And his show on Sunday evening of delicate, multi-layered chiffon dresses in pastel pinks and lemons reminded me of the day three years ago when he rolled a rack of clothing into my office at TIME and announced that he wanted to be a designer. I was surprised to say the least since I knew him only as an aspiring fashion writer at the magazine. "You're crazy," I told him. But he persisted, showing me a capsule collection of beautifully crafted lace dresses. I admire the determination of Thakoon and DVF tremendously, not only because they have it, but more so because they never let it show.