Diane von Furstenberg: ‘It’s very important not to give up’

Photo of Diane von Furstenburg

In the latest Bookshelfie, Yomi Adegoke welcomed iconic fashion designer, keen philanthropist and a role model for female empowerment Diane von Furstenberg onto the Women’s Prize Podcast to share her five favourite books by women who, for her, “all carry the flag of freedom”. They discuss Diane’s mission to use her “voice, knowledge, experience, connections and resources in order to help others”, the “unbearable” issue of the gender pay gap, and why as feminists “it’s very important not to give up”.

Listen to the episode in full here, and read on for her book choices.

A Life

Veil, the former French politician who became first President of the European Union, was born Simone Jacob in 1927. In…

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“Simone Vale was a politician in France, she was minister many times. She was about the same age, and had the same journey, as my mother. She was in Auschwitz, and she was a survivor. She did the Death March, and so did my mother. So I was interested in reading her memoir because survivors have many things in common. I was raised by a mother who always told me that to be a woman was lucky; I wasn’t raised by a mother who felt overpowered by men. She always made me feel that it was such a privilege.”

The Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir

The Second Sex

Simone de Beauvoir famously wrote, ‘One is not born, but rather becomes, woman’. In this groundbreaking work of feminism she…

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“Simone de Beauvoir was an intellectual, writer, existentialist and philosopher. I really admired that. I don’t remember having read The Second Sex all in one go – I studied it and analysed it – but it just had an impact. But as a woman she had so much impact as well. She wrote about women’s oppression, freedom, and not being overpowered by a man. It’s all about equality.”

My Life on the Road

Gloria Steinem had an itinerant childhood. Every fall, her father would pack the family into the car and they would…

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“When I came to New York it was very much the time of sex liberation, and women’s lib. The women who were my idols were Angela Davis, the Black Panthers, and Gloria Steinem, especially. What I loved about Gloria Steinem is that she was such an advocate for woman. yet she was a beautiful woman, and she was seductive. I also love the fact that she never takes herself seriously even though she has had such an effect on on generations of women.”


Beyond race or class, our lives are defined by a powerful, unspoken system of divisions. In Caste , Pulitzer Prize-winning author Isabel…

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“What I love the most about her is the way her writing is so brilliant, but there’s a certain detachment that is so powerful. She’s never emotional. And I guess that, now that I’m thinking about it, the common thread, of all of the books and all of these women that I’ve told you about, is all about being strong.”


A ground-breaking investigation into the oil and gas industry, international corruption and world politics. Oil.Corrupt? Yes. Unimaginably lucrative? Of course. But, the…

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“What I love about Rachel Maddow is she is angry, she’s an activist, she’s loud, and she’s not afraid. She’s angry in a very intelligent way – she proves a point, she does her research. And so the reason I chose this book is because activism is very important to fight inequality, abuse, and violence.”

Diane is best known for her groundbreaking “wrap dress” which came out in 1974 and earned her global recognition, becoming a wardrobe staple around the world. It’s still worn by celebrities including Michelle Obama and Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. But her impact goes well beyond clothing and cosmetics – Diane is also a keen philanthropist and a role model for female empowerment. Her foundation The Diller is the force behind the DVF Awards, which celebrate female leaders, she’s part of Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Ban Bossy’ campaign and she even designed shirts for Hilary Clinton’s presidential bid. Her latest book, Own It: The Secret to Life, is out now.

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