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Porter
The Fashion Memo

How three fashion designers are mentoring the next generation

When starting out as a young designer, the support and guidance of someone who’s risen through the ranks before you is invaluable. Here, three established names, and their up-and-coming protégés, give us an insight into their working relationships. As told to FEDORA ABU

Fashion
Diane von Furstenberg (left) and her granddaughter, Talita

DIANE VON FURSTENBERG AND TVF’s TALITA VON FURSTENBERG

Diane von Furstenberg founded her eponymous label in 1970 and chaired the Council of Fashion Designers of America from 2006 until 2019. Her 21-year-old granddaughter and successor, Talita von Furstenberg, is studying fashion business at New York University.

On Talita’s introduction to the Diane von Furstenberg label

Talita: I was eight when my grandmother brought me along to her resort show in Florence. I remember taking Polaroids of the models, helping make headbands for the show and just falling in love with fashion.

Diane: She got to see the process of working with a production company, hiring the models, picking the clothes… It couldn’t have been a better introduction.

T: After that, I started interning at DvF in New York every summer. And then, in 2019, we did [my capsule collection] TvF for DvF, which was a great way of attracting a younger generation of customers.

D: I mean, she’s always wanted to run DvF. The TvF collection was a successful test, but DvF is a huge brand – and there’s so much she can do with that, too.

On their relationship

D: Sometimes I forget Talita’s my grandchild – I think she’s my daughter!

T: We’re always together – and when we’re not, we call each other 10 times a day. We have the same eye and we mesh really well together. It’s funny seeing her in the office because she’s such a boss, whereas in our family…

D: …they have a tendency to tease me!

On the future of DvF

D: I started my company at around the same age as Talita is now, and I’m preparing the legacy for her – the archives, the color banks, the print library – and giving her great people to work with.

T: DvF has been making the wrap dress for 40 years and I think an item like that is the future – something you can rely on, dress up, dress down, wear in any season. The classic fashion model is changing so much and it’s really about slowing down the industry and being more conscious as consumers.

I started my company at around the same age as Talita is now, and I’m preparing the legacy for her
Diane von Furstenberg

DRIES VAN NOTEN AND MERYLL ROGGE

This year, acclaimed Antwerp designer Dries Van Noten will celebrate the 35th anniversary of his namesake fashion brand. Fellow Belgian Meryll Rogge worked alongside van Noten for several years, as head of women’s design, before setting up her own label in 2020.

On working together

Dries: I’d seen Meryll’s work at the Royal Academy, but the moment I met her, I knew she had a special energy. [When she worked for me], she understood the brand, but she was also pushing ideas forward. And when she goes for something, she really goes for it.

Meryll: I’ve always loved how Dries has created his own universe – from the runway shows to the stores, it’s all visually his style. He’s one of the most hard-working people in fashion and so detail-oriented. But, at the same time, he trusts his team and gives you a lot of freedom.

On learning from each other

D: I always say that my team has to surprise me. It’s important that the people around you challenge you to try new things. Meryll came with ideas that fit into the brand’s philosophy in ways I hadn’t thought of before.

M: It was interesting to learn from him how to really think about the final customer. Can they move in it? Are they going to be comfortable? It’s not theater with Dries – he knows what his customer wants – and his clothes are designed to be worn for a long time.

D: Meryll’s very involved in contemporary art and I picked up a lot of inspiration from her that way. She also really pushed my taste for color and brought a different perspective on femininity.

On branching out with your own brand

D: As a young designer, the more advice you get, the better. Starting out, all of the Antwerp Six had a lot of support from Linda Loppa, who was an important figure on the Belgian fashion scene, and she’d share her experiences from working with brands such as Comme des Garçons and Jean Paul Gaultier.

M: Dries has been really supportive – he even came to the showroom in Paris for the first collection and gave me flowers. And, during the pandemic, he’s offered advice on everything. As much as I’m trying to figure this out on my own, if I ever have a problem, I know I can always give him a call.

Meryll Rogge
Dries Van Noten
Meryll came with ideas that fit into the brand’s philosophy in ways I hadn’t thought of before
Dries Van Noten
Matthew Harris

MATEO’S MATTHEW HARRIS AND KHIRY’S JAMEEL MOHAMMED

Twenty-five-year-old Jameel Mohammed launched his ‘afrofuturist’ jewelry label, Khiry, while studying at the University of Pennsylvania. His mentor, Jamaican-born Matthew Harris, is the brain behind Mateo, which has been worn by the likes of Rihanna and Zendaya.

On starting out as a young designer

Matthew: I had to learn every last bit on my own: how to solder, how to select gemstones and check for quality. My mother was an entrepreneur and she always told me it’s important to know every facet of the business, so that’s something I grew up with.

Jameel: I’ve always been self-taught in every art form that I’ve pursued. And, with jewelry, I realized I’d have to learn how to design my own shapes and get them cast. For a long time, I was figuring it out for myself, but it helps to have someone who can see your progress and guide you.

On their admiration for each other’s work

J: I remember seeing his work for the first time – it was this beautiful, tapered necklace. I’d just decided that I wanted to create a brand that was about black culture, but I didn’t know if there was a space for that. Matthew was like a beacon – I saw that there were other black designers out there making striking, modernist, wearable pieces.

M: Jameel’s talent is not something you can learn at fashion school. And he’s a fantastic storyteller. Every jewelry brand needs a signature piece and [with the ‘Khartoum’ ring and bracelet], he’s already nailed it. And because he’s young, he’s only going to get better.

On their working relationship

M: When I met Jameel, I could see his passion and I said, “Whatever you need, I’m here.” As a designer, no one teaches you about the logistics. I’m here to help him grow his brand so he can compete on a level playing field.

J: I trust that he knows what’s best for me – and because of our shared identities and experiences, he’s a good reference for what’s possible. Matthew is all about empowering my creativity: he sees what I want to bring to the world and wants to help make it a reality. That is true generosity.

Jameel Mohammed
Jameel’s talent is not something you can learn at fashion school. And he’s a fantastic storyteller
Matthew Harris