'House of DVF': TV Review

Diane von Furstenberg's thoughtful, serene personality elevates things

Fashion designer and icon Diane von Furstenberg attempts to teach millennial women lessons in class and style

The E! channel's new competition series House of DVF (Diane von Furstenberg) is — in most ways — predictably catty and full of fashion-world glitz and glamour. But what makes it more than just another America's Top Model (or America's Top Wrap Dress, in this case), is DVF herself. Von Furstenberg's classy, earthy demeanor is balanced with a nose for drama ("I have two potential bitches in front of me"), which she both acknowledges and looks to snuff out. "You have to not be ... delusional," she counsels one of the competitors.

Though she appears to have a wary attitude toward the series, von Furstenberg is using it ultimately to search for a Global Brand Ambassador. The position will help her begin to transition out of traveling around the world to promote the brand, while also (she hopes) finding a person who can connect with a younger generation. Two of her senior staff members, Stefani Greenfield and Jessica Joffe (who give a Devil Wears Prada vibe to the proceedings), assembled 10 "regular" (i.e. non-celebrity) women in their 20s, to potentially fill the role. Von Furstenberg, with Greenfield and Joffe's help, will then whittle down the group to the eventual winner.

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There's no exact formula or setup for how or when von Furstenberg decides to eliminate the contestants week to week, which takes away the element of strategy, and gives the series an unpredictable feel (both are good things). House of DVF's real strength, though, comes from the level of von Furstenberg's involvement; she is genuinely interested in the development of these young women, and also approaches them with a refreshing bluntness: "Why does everyone think you're a bitch?" she asks one. When some of the contestants cry over their own personal stories, DVF scrunches up her face and asks, "Why do you cry so much?" But, she later acknowledges she appreciated their candor.

In each hourlong episode, House of DVF also manages to weave in the right amount of drama with the fashion. When the women start to amp things up too high — fighting, obsessively taking selfies, being mean to one another, and even hyperventilating in the bathroom at the U.N. — von Furstenberg and her team calm the waters. Conversely, when the competitors start getting too comfortable with their position (ultra-high confidence levels are not a problem in this group), DVF and company mix things up, piercing their egos by preaching humility, and giving difficult advice: "Style does not come naturally to you," von Furstenberg says matter-of-factly to one contestant who had just said her dream was to become a stylist. 

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In many ways, the series fits in perfectly with E!'s other reality offerings: von Furstenberg's celebrity friends and clients come in and out, the women (regrettably) claw over each other to try and get ahead, there are tears and fights, and more tears. Yet von Furstenberg's presence is refreshingly grounded. While the women all seem harried by the tasks they are given (like helping out at the DVF Awards at the U.N., or tasked with making look books and mood boards for a collection), von Furstenberg keeps calm. "Are any of these girls ready to be Global Brand Ambassadors? I don't know," she says with an elegant shrug. And somehow, with that statement of effortless cool, she has made the idea of no one winning a competition series a perfectly fine outcome.