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Coffee with Joffe:
A Lesson in Self-Awareness

We have now reached the point in the program where we entrust the girls with truly public-facing tasks as a group. We need to see how they are able to work together, how well they’ve understood the brand message and how well they can sell the brand—literally and figuratively. As Diane says: the brand ambassador role is all about selling. It would seem that the girls have now been immersed deeply enough in our culture to know a thing or two about what to do, how to carry themselves, how to treat each other, but it is clear they are still struggling.  This might be an opportune moment to step back and talk about an attribute most of our gals seem to be lacking: self-awareness.

Self-awareness means humility, because it means facing your own shortcomings as well as your strengths. And while some of the girls are still under the impression that unmitigated ambition will propel them toward the finish line fastest, it is really their willingness to acknowledge their flaws and work on bettering themselves that will see them through. Each of the girls brings a unique set of talents, personality traits and foibles to the table, but since it seems like the girls have mistaken self-analysis for navel-gazing, it’s no surprise they can’t hear our (or each other’s) constructive criticism as anything other than effrontery.

Cree, Cat and Chantal – as different as they are temperamentally – are the biggest culprits. They really seem to have very little awareness of their internal and external affect. They know they want something, but they don’t know what that something is. Cree wants to heal people but she prefers plants to human beings. Cat wants to win the title but she doesn’t see how many people she’s aggravating on her way there. Chantal feels like she’s getting short-changed but she doesn’t know what she has to offer except “me” and an exceptionally close bond with her mother. Blame it on the “DVF black-out,” the paralysis that sets in when confronted with the ultimate authority figure, but these girls are out of their depth. I am sympathetic to the enormous pressure they’re under, and recognize their deep desire to do this their own, unique way, but they still have a long way to go before we can feel confident about calling any one of them our brand ambassador. It’s not surprising that Cree takes herself out of the running – this job really isn’t for her – but she’s graceful about it at every step along the way, and I salute her for it.

The girls who make the least noise are starting to prove their mettle and leave a good impression: the irrepressibly charming Alli from the Valley is a hard worker, rarely a complainer and always diplomatic, and Hanna Beth who may be shy, but is self-aware. She knows what requires improvement, and she’s not going to put her foot in her mouth while she figures out the lay of the land. She stakes her claim in the group without being disruptive. I want to see more of that.

The girls have a long way to go. Perhaps they all need to take a moment and let the words of our Vision Expo buyer sink in: “You have to remember: it’s not all about you!”


Inside House of DVF:
Stefani Greenfield’s Top 5 Tips on Selling (Yourself!)

Our Brand Ambassador candidates recently showed that selling doesn’t necessarily come naturally! We asked Stefani Greenfield for her top tips on how to be the best you while representing a brand. It’s a must-read for anyone in sales—not to mention helpful advice for everyday life from our always-fabulous Creative Brand Director!

Speak in We/Our terms. “We feel strongly about this style.” “Our brand vision for the season is…” THERE IS NO I IN TEAM. You are not the brand, you are there to represent and support its mission.

Study! Come prepared. The only way to be respected as an authority is to authentically know your “stuff.” Smile and generate positive and contagious energy!

Do not allow personal issues to divert you from executing a task. Especially when interacting with clients. The only show they came to see is the brand’s!

Ask direct and relevant questions. Provide succinct and applicable answers. If you start randomly rambling, you will be “locking out” your audience.

First impressions can set the tone for an entire experience. Do not OVER impose your personal style while representing the brand’s values and image. You will never lose yourself by following a brand’s roadmap and guidelines.


Spoiler Alert! A House of DVF Candidate Goes Home

A second candidate is already out of the running to become the next DVF Brand Ambassador! In this exclusive clip, she looks back and shares what she brought to the table, what she learned, and why she’s really on her way home.


The Incognito Coat

Filled with old school glamour and mystery, we’re in love with this look that channels a young Tippi Hedren. Our Incognito coat plays a starring role, naturally, with soft bouclé sides, a painted canvas front, and an oversized collar perfect for turning up against the elements or paparazzi glare. The classic belted shape demands ladylike accessories, like our favorite Mika platform heel, rounded sunglasses, and a sleek Secret Agent tote. We’ll be wearing this stunning coat all winter, slipping it over a slim black pant, a soft wrap, and even a dramatic gown embellished in birds of silk, velvet and lace.


In Conversation:
Fashion Illustrator Michelle Vella

When did you start making portraits?
I started playing with painting portraits at the end of February; actually Diane was my subject very early on but it wasn’t until this year that I started to discover my personal trademark style. As an artist you need to be your true self and not a recreation of another artist’s style. I worked hard at this, going back and forth with techniques, mediums and styles and eventually it just happened. I was inspired by the portrait work of Francesco Clemente, and fell in love with how he depicted people with such big eyes. Now, fast forward to the moment I am waiting to meet with Diane von Furstenberg and sitting beneath a portrait of her by Francesco himself—I had to pinch myself.

Fashion illustration and portraiture have returned to prominence in the past few years. What do you think accounts for this rise, and what has it meant for your work?
Being so new in this industry, I can’t pretend to know why the rise in popularity of fashion illustration but from personal experience, I attribute it to the power of Instagram. It’s an amazing tool where a totally unknown Toronto artist like myself can find herself live illustrating for W Magazine at New York Fashion Week and meeting Diane von Furstenberg. By painting portraits of people in fashion you are able to get their attention and the attention of their followers.

In January of this year, I was inspired by posting on Instagram at @michellevellart and quickly became obsessed with drawing and posting my work on Instagram everyday. This is how Diane discovered me and started following me. She simply said that she wanted my portrait for her collection; you can imagine my excitement.

Tell us a bit about your technique, and what makes your work distinctive.
My distinctive style, “high art caricature,” is instantly recognizable for the big eyes brushed with long eye lashes extending well beyond the frame of the face. I start with a line drawing in marker, then paint over it with acrylic paint. I usually paint on paper but also paint on canvas and other surfaces including leather and fabrics.

What inspired you to paint Diane?
A friend suggested I read Diane’s book as well as paint her, so I did both. I looked through many photos of her and decided on this portrait. To me it said that she is the woman she wanted to be and empowered me to be just that for myself. I felt empowered as I could connect with Diane’s independent nature while being inspired by her honesty, energy, and love of life.

I was a portrait photographer turned graphic designer for the past 15 years, so finding a new creative outlet as a fashion illustrator and artist at 50 has been life changing.


Win a Custom DVF-Printed Fiat!

DVF and the E! docuseries “House of DVF” want you to share how you became the woman you wanted to be! Fueled by Diane’s memoir, “The Woman I Wanted to Be,” the contest will end with one creative, inspiring, winner driving away in a custom DVF-printed Fiat 500X! From now until October 12, enter to win by tweeting an image and caption, and tag #DVFxFIATcontest. Then, between October 26 and 28, come back to vote for one of the top five stories as selected by a panel of judges from DVF, Fiat and E!

The winner will be announced during the “House of DVF” finale on November 1, so check out the official rules here and share your story with us!


Woman at Work:
The Lillian Dress

This Lillian is one hard working addition to your weekday wardrobe. There’s the color that pops, but still goes with your favorite black tote and pumps. There’s the scoop front that lengthens the neck, and pairs perfectly with long gold hoops. Then there’s that flattering side ruching that adds movement to the classic shift shape. But our favorite feature of this essential shift is how it gets the job done with so little effort.


Inside House of DVF:
Cat’s Paris Diary

When I found out I was going to Paris, my first reaction was pure excitement. Then shock. I think I actually jumped up from my seat and yelped. Then I began to think, when are we going, why me, why just two girls, how long? But, overall I was so happy to go back to such a beautiful city.

A highlight of the trip was Diane inviting us into her Paris apartment. On our way there we filmed a scene with Diane’s wonderful driver who gave us a tour of the city. We passed all the major monuments and landmarks and were able to really soak the city in. What made it even more surreal was the 6 GoPros strapped to the inside of the car recording our reactions! Simultaneously, two men were on a single moped filming us. EVERY angle was covered, and it was hard not to laugh and look at them when they where weaving in and out of the absolutely crazy Paris traffic. Then we finally reached Diane’s apartment and were taken aback by how visually gorgeous and personal it felt. The the walls were dripping in art. The whole day was so beautiful. Off-camera, I would go out at night to catch up with friends who were in town for fashion week, which was not only fun, but kind of difficult considering I wasn’t allowed to tell them exactly why I was in Paris.

Looking back, I have too many favorite moments to choose just one! Diane’s apartment, hanging out with the boys beneath the twinkling lights of the Eiffel Tower. Lunch with Diane at Café de Flore, and tea with Diane and Leigh at Angelina. Walking through the streets of Paris with Diane, arm in arm. It was so fun to watch her and be with her as she was stopped by fans and people she knew. It was an honor to have her show us her favorite spots in Paris, a city that means so much to her.

Another highlight of the trip was getting to know Brittany better; we had mutual friends outside the show and I also got to talk to her about her experience as the current brand ambassador and what it entailed. She was so helpful and cool, and it was nice to have a normal conversation with someone else filming. While I was of course excited to get to know the whole DVF team better, I was also wondering what they had up their sleeve for us as far as projects/challenges. Constantly wondering what was coming next was tough. Jessica and Stefani put pressure on Leigh and I to perform to our best abilities and represent the brand properly.

I learned many things from the quick trip. Diane taught me a great lesson on being humble, Jessica brought to my attention about “steamrolling” and Brittany showed me the inner workings of her job and the many aspects involved. Overall, it was an experience that definitely shaped me.


Inside House of DVF:
Leigh’s Paris Diary

Paris is easily my favorite city in the world. If you have ever been there you too know the unbelievable beauty that lies in the streets. Paris does not look like it does in movies, on a television screen, or on Tumblr. It is undoubtedly, unmeasurably, better in person. The fashion, the art, the architecture—everything is unapologetically gorgeous.

Being told you are going to Paris with Diane von Furstenberg can only be described as an out of body experience. I am so honored to have been given the opportunity to not just work with Diane, but to travel with her and learn from her in the most beautiful city in the world. Cat and I worked to the best of our ability to not only get our job done in Paris, but to also have a little fun along the way; grabbing drinks in small cafes, snacking on camembert and baguettes, and taking midnight strolls to la Tour Eiffel made it an all around magical trip.

Being in Paris with Diane is something akin to being in Stratford-upon-Avon with Shakespeare. Her apartment is magnificent, her taste in restaurants is impeccable and her knowledge of the city is unparalleled. Having the opportunity to have Diane not only welcome me into her Paris home, but take myself and Cat down the streets of the city, pointing out her favorite spots along the way, was absolutely amazing.

Spending time surrounded by the DVF team allowed Cat and I a really intimate look into the amazing camaraderie of Diane and her team. Watching Brittany thrive at doing what Cat and I were hoping to become was not only extremely inspiring, but also made the opportunity feel that much more realistic and attainable.

While there were many highlights of this trip, my absolute favorite moment was getting to speak with Diane alone in her apartment. She was so caring and interested in my story, as well as how I was doing in the program so far. Having her reach out to me in this way was extremely comforting and allowed us the opportunity to connect on a more personal level. I am so grateful that Diane not only wanted to help us grow and learn professionally, but personally as well.

Overall, my trip to Paris with Diane and her team was an unbelievable learning experience that I will forever cherish. I hope to one day find myself back at Café de Flore, eating Niçoise salads with Diane, discussing life, love, careers and happiness.


Coffee with Joffe:
A Few Notes on Determination

Spoiler alert! Each week, DVF Style Editor Jessica Joffe is debriefing Sunday night’s episode. Read more for her take on all the latest drama, but be sure to catch Episode 3 first! 

Are we actually still in Paris? We must be since my hair still hasn’t grown.

Cat is my conundrum. I see how badly she wants this—decidedly more than everyone else in the group. She knows what she wants and she’s going after it. I respect that very much. Most young women don’t know what they want, or if they do, don’t have the guts or the wherewithal to go after it. I salute her unbridled ambition and her desire to work for DVF. How flattering for Diane and our brand! However, the collateral damage is starting to pile up. My approach is to meet Cat in the sandbox, and I see now that it’s not so effective. But how do I protect the other girls? Or is that not my job?

Diane tells both Cat and Maytee—while wedged in her car—to be honest and drop the pitch. Though Cat and Maytee are polar opposites, they both are hiding behind their campaign slogans. The girls need to be real with us. They’re already in too deep. What have they got to lose? For some more aquatic metaphors: Maytee is drowning in the shallow end, expecting to be thrown a life preserver. Cat is snaking over the heads of her competition with no regard for surf etiquette. We are looking for a girl we can send out into the world unsupervised who can represent the brand effortlessly, intelligently and elegantly. Neither of these girls are ready.

I like the camaraderie of Hanna Beth, Chantal and Leigh, as different as they all are. I’m not sure why they’re each wearing a full face of makeup to the gym, but chacun à son gôut. They believe in safety in numbers, and that’s smart too. After all, that’s what it means to work and survive in a corporate environment. Surround yourself with allies. My only concern is that they’re playing it too safe.

Oh, and please ladies, in the words of Maytee’s brother: Stop crying!!

When it comes to the design challenge, I’m amused by the girls’ work. It shows they are not listening or really thinking. Use your common sense! Look at the given parameters and limitations (fabric, brand ethos, season) and design accordingly! The fabric is light, somewhat sheer and designed to drape and move effortlessly. It is not a structured material. It does not require a marabou feather trim, or a decal, nor is it the right material for a living “Torch of Freedom.” Cree is on her own path…right out the door, if she doesn’t stop defying the basic mandate for each assignment. For a gaggle of fashion enthusiasts, these girls don’t understand design at all, which is in large measure about intuition and logic.

I’m not surprised when Maytee is given the ominous Ellen Call + Gift Bag One-Two Punch. She is not ready to represent this brand, and her mistake—though not egregious—is pretty embarrassing for Diane. Alli, on the other hand, is humble, elegant and kind. She does not snub Maytee or muscle her out of the way, she looks great in a shift dress, and she stands her ground humbly and articulately when Diane puts her on the spot. She is my dark horse, and I want to see her go far. Plus, I want to hear her sing again!

In conclusion, my ducklings: be determined and fight for what you want, but keep your wrap dress clean in the process!


Spoiler Alert! The First House of DVF Departure

Only one candidate will become the DVF Global Brand Ambassador, and today one girl learned she did not make the cut. Following her elimination, she discusses how the experience has helped to shape her into who she is today.


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