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Diane von Furstenburg Discovers Los Angeles

"I used to have a fantasy of being a Hollywood wife," Diane says in her typical droll purr. "And now I am one in a way. I do have more time to go shopping when I'm here than when I'm working in New York." She likes, for instance, Amphora Art & Antiques, an upscale store on Rodeo Drive. In West Hollywood, she frequents Melrose's Art Deco and Mid-Century Modern furniture shops, although she shuns the current interest in shag rugs and Lucite ("I'm too old for the seventies revival," says the Studio 54 veteran). Lily, a vintage clothing store frequented by movie stars, is also a favorite, as is Maxfield, an eclectic, expensive shop full of avant-garde sneakers and vintage Gucci and Hermès luggage. After a morning of antiques and couture, Canter's deli is a must.

Since Diane takes pictures wherever she goes, in particular of plants, whose shapes inspire the organic patterns of her fabrics, her first stop is usually Samy's Camera. "Sell me something new," she tells a clerk she knows. Does the woman who has everything need binoculars?No. A Polaroid for quick reference?No. An even smaller Sony digital videocam than the one she already carries around?"I could use a big camera with a zoom lens for the boat," she says, meaning Diller's yacht. "Why?So you can take thirty pictures of one leaf?" Tatiana jokes. Her mother laughs and kisses her cheek. The clerk brings out an enormous camera with an enormous lens. "You'd look like the paparazzi," adds Tatiana, who's had experience, growing up among her mother's famous friends and even posing nude for Madonna's notorious book, Sex.

At Ron Herman, the West Hollywood fashion mecca still known by its former name, Fred Segal, Tatiana finds one of her mother's white peasant dresses ("I'll give you one," says Diane) and decides on a T-shirt by the hip label Juicy Couture. Mom approves: "The shape of this neck looks good on you."

In matters of fashion, how can Mother not know best?

When Diane first came to L.A. 30 years ago, she was struck by its light and its glamour. As a visitor instead of a resident, she found its extravagant suburbanism charming and didn't fixate on the dystopia of the place, the way other Europeans (and writers like Nathanael West and Joan Didion) did. "This is as opposite to Belgium as you can get," says von Furstenberg, who was born in rainy Brussels and educated in Europe. "Here everything's like a stage set. It's a land of make-believe."

But so is fashion. And if anybody had a fashion-princess story, it's Diane von Furstenberg.

After becoming a household name and a symbol of disco-era working-woman chic, she left the clothing business in 1979 to focus on licensed products, such as cosmetics, sunglasses, and linens. In the mid-1990's, in need of an outlet for her creativity, she returned to designing. With the help of her It-girl daughter-in-law, Alex (who is married to Diane's son, Alexander), she resurrected her fashion business. In a review of her fall collection, which ranges from Op Art minidresses to heavily ruffled ankle-length skirts, the New York Times lauded von Furstenberg for not resting on her laurels.

"I'm curious by nature, so I'm constantly finding new things," she says.

She's talking about travel, not fashion. But it's clear that one inspires the other, and she looks for inspiration wherever she goes, whether it's the Cannes film festival or the Australian outback. "I love the eclectic when I'm on the road," she says. "And I end up in obscure places."


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