DESIGNER PROFILES

Inside the Sensual Eccentricity of Jonathan Saunders’ Diane von Furstenberg

With a little help from his friends, Jonathan Saunders is refurbishing the fashion house built by Diane von Furstenberg.


Photograph by Oliver Hadlee Pearch, Styled by Camille Bidault-Waddington; Hair by Tina Outen for Bumble and bumble at Streeters; Makeup by Chiho Omae for Giorgio Armani Beauty at Frank Reps; photography assistants: Mitch Stafford, Dean Podmore

Wanting to focus her energy on philanthropic projects, Diane von Furstenberg made the decision last year to hand over the creative reins of her 45-year-old fashion house to Jonathan Saunders, a Scottish designer known for his love of color and prints. Saunders, 39, had recently closed down his London-based line and was eager to pursue something more “personal and solitary,” like furniture design.

But he found the opportunity too good to pass up. “She wanted someone to take the brand in a new direction—and that was enticing,” he says.

Four seasons in, he’s done just that, infusing the clothes with what he likes to call a “sensual eccentricity.” He’s also reworked the logo, website, and stores; introduced influencers; and generally reimagined the identity of DVF as a fun, free, arty New York label that can carry on even without its illustrious founder.

And he’s done it with the help of his friends.

“I love the idea of collaborating with a team of creatives to build a new vocabulary,” Saunders says of the merry band of cool talents he’s brought on board. Among them: Katie Hillier, the British accessories designer and former creative director of Marc by Marc Jacobs, who, along with Luella Bartley, runs her own fashion label, Hillier Bartley. As Hillier’s longtime friend, Saunders knew she could provide a poppy, playful attitude to the line of bags, which for fall includes a patchwork leather carryall and a swingy evening number in snakeskin and sequins.

“She’s fun, and it’s important to have some joy in the design process,” Saunders says.

Karlie Kloss in Diane Von Furstenberg at the DVF Awards in New York, New York, April 2017.

Roy Rochlin/Getty Images

Earlier this year, Saunders scrapped the kisses and scrawled initials that had long served as the company identity, debuting a simpler, more architectural logo courtesy of the Australian-born, London-based creative director Jonny Lu, whose clients include Victoria Beckham and Ivy Park.

Saunders and Lu were introduced by the fashion producer Sylvia Farago, and found they shared a similar streamlined approach to branding. “We looked at the city and the subway as inspiration—I wanted the logo to feel more modern,” says Lu, who has also redesigned the website and overseen Saunders’s ad campaign for fall, a celebration of New York.

Jonathan Saunders Takes Over at Diane Von Furstenberg

Jonathan Saunders Spring 2015 at London Fashion Week. Photo by Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images.

Jonathan Saunders Spring 2015 at London Fashion Week. Photo by Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images.

Jonathan Saunders Spring 2013 at London Fashion Week. Photo by Nathalie Lagneau/Catwalking/Getty Images.

Jonathan Saunders Spring 2013 at London Fashion Week. Photo by Nathalie Lagneau/Catwalking/Getty Images.

Jonathan Saunders Fall 2015 at London Fashion Week. Photo by Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images.

Jonathan Saunders Fall 2014 at London Fashion Week. Photo by Catwalking.

Jonathan Saunders Fall 2014 at London Fashion Week. Photo by Catwalking.

Jonathan Saunders Fall 2013 at London Fashion Week. Photo by Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images.

Jonathan Saunders Spring 2014 at London Fashion Week. Photo by Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images.

Jonathan Saunders Spring 2014 at London Fashion Week. Photo by Victor Virgile/Gamma-Rapho via Getty Images.

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To shoot it, Saunders enlisted Oliver Hadlee Pearch, a rising British photographer who contributes regularly to i-D magazine and has worked with Vetements and Adidas. “I was blown away by how nuts he is,” says Saunders, laughing. “He brings out a sense of humor in the models—as well as their femininity and sexuality.” Hadlee Pearch wouldn’t disagree.

“We’re bonkers, it’s chaos,” he says. “But that makes the results good.”

“It’s a jolly gang,” concurs the French stylist Camille Bidault-Waddington, who has been charged with putting her sexy Parisian spin on the collections. Bidault-Waddington had known Hillier for years and had worked with Lu at Victoria Beckham, but it was Saunders’s vision for the brand that ultimately attracted her.

“Jonathan wanted to do this strong, downtown, dancing, fun thing, and I loved that,” she says. “I was like, ‘Oooh, let’s make this cool again!’”

Looking Back at the Best of Jonathan Saunders

Jonathan Saunders Fall 2003

Courtesy of CNP Montrose

Jonathan Saunders Fall 2005

Courtesy of CNP Montrose

Jonathan Saunders Spring 2009

Courtesy of CNP Montrose

Jonathan Saunders Spring 2010

Courtesy of CNP Montrose

Jonathan Saunders Fall 2012

Courtesy of CNP Montrose

Jonathan Saunders Spring 2014

Courtesy of the designer

Jonathan Saunders Fall 2014

Courtesy of the designer

Jonathan Saunders Fall 2015

Courtesy of the designer

Jonathan Saunders Spring 2015

Courtesy of the designer

Jonathan Saunders Spring 2016

Courtesy of the designer

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