Designer Von Furstenberg Says Days of Women as ‘Meat’ Are Over

(Bloomberg) -- Fashion legend Diane von Furstenberg has a message for the business world: “Women are not an accessory.”

Female executives are still treated as tokens on boards and in leadership, the 71-year-old designer said at Bloomberg’s Business of Equality Summit in New York on Tuesday. But that’s going to change as the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements sweep society and the corporate world -- and give women a chance to find their voices, she said.

“We have to own our strength, we have to believe in our own strength, and therefore we have to present it,” von Furstenberg told interviewer Joanna Coles, chief content officer at Hearst Magazines. “There should be more women in politics, there should be more women running, there should be more women CEOs -- and there will be. It is happening. There’s no going back.”

Von Furstenberg, who introduced her iconic wrap dress in 1972, is widely considered one of the greatest apparel designers active today. Still, she said she had to endure attempted abuse by one of her early male bosses. The founder of Diane von Furstenberg Studio LP and the chairwoman of the Council of Fashion Designers of America Inc. said it’s important for women to rise to the occasion and take advantage of the changes happening, albeit in a respectful way.

Von Furstenberg said she isn’t concerned that women will miss out on opportunities as a result of men feeling fearful in the corporate world because it’s “nothing compared to the abuse women have had.”

“Women should not be treated as meat,” von Furstenberg said.

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