The First Act
Who knows with certainty they want to become a fashion designer at the age of two? Diane Gilman knew.
Growing up in LA, Diane loved creating outfits for her dolls, and mastered sewing at a young age. Frustratingly, her parents opposed her designer dreams, going so far as to rip up the scholarship she was awarded to attend the Sorbonne in Paris. Always a good student, she attended UCLA instead, where she kept her dream alive by painting and embroidering jeans, capturing the attention of rock and roll legends Janis Joplin, Jimmy Hendrix and Jim Morrison.
Encouraged, she opened a boutique in LA that attracted a celebrity clientele, then moved to San Francisco after graduation where she produced denim creations for Jerry Garcia, Jim Morrison, and other musical greats. In her 20s, she moved to New York City, fitting Madonna-style “bullet bras” at Bloomingdale’s by day, and socializing with celebrities at Studio 54 and the Peppermint Lounge by night.
Her first big retailing break came when she convinced Bloomingdale’s executives to fund a “prairie blouse” she had designed under the label CABAL (named, she admits, by her boyfriend at the time), which was picked up by every major department store in America. Next, she pioneered the first line of women’s washable silk garments, creating a phenomenon with “The Diane Gilman Collection,” which took off when QVC invited Diane to sell her silks on-air, creating a loyal fan base. But Diane dreamed of more.
The Second Act
When Diane lost her husband at age 52 after a long illness, she dove into her work, and by the age of 57, ballooned to 200 pounds, which was uncomfortable and frustrating.
A year shy of 60, she decided to reconnect with her sense of self worth, and set out to find a pair of jeans that fit and flattered a mature woman’s body– to no avail. But then she had a light bulb moment that changed her life completely. Boomer women needed jeans to fit their bodies and make them feel beautiful and sexy, so she decided to design them herself in a way that stretched, lifted and boosted boomer women in all the right places.
Her DG2 jeans were an overnight sensation, and she quickly earned the title “Jeans Queen” as celebrities like Kirstie Alley became fans. By 2019, her DG2 Jeans line had sold more than 19 million pairs on HSN and she became the network’s longest running and number one fashion personality, achieving sales of $150+ million annually. Her biggest career success hit at age 60!
But just as Diane enjoyed her meteoric rise, she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Her oncologist told her that she was a great candidate for survival because she was such a fighter, and indeed Diane turned tragedy into triumph. And while chemo stole her famous long, auburn hair, she emerged triumphant, with bright, white hair that illuminates her face and symbolizes her defiance and determination.
Her on-air personality has captivated women around the world and she feels deeply connected to them, as they are to her. In Diane’s words, “My heart knows how to reach through that camera and send a message to the heart of my sisterhood.” And she is proud of how her hip, sexy jeans have helped women of every age regain self confidence.
The Third Act
Diane’s confidence-inspiring jeans could have been enough of a legacy, but with so much vitality and energy, she’s embarking on a new act – a third act.
And that act is translating her paradigm-busting life lessons into inspiration for women who may believe that the later years are for invisibility, decline, and feeling left behind. To the contrary, Diane is certain she’s the right woman to redefine later life by serving as a role model of productivity, purpose, and positivity for millions of women living longer, healthier lives.
For starters, she’s taking on a new challenge, learning how to share her wisdom on social media, after years of relying on television as her primary channel for connecting. And after overcoming cancer and surviving Covid, she is researching and eating only the freshest foods, keen to share her dietary tips for healing with women her age. And in matters of style, Diane remains a trailblazer – embracing her lustrous white hair, and choosing cool, eye-catching fashions that keep her feeling sexy and attractive, and she’s naturally excited to encourage other women to follow her esteem-boosting advice.
But above all else, she’s a champion of spending the final chapter of life focused on continuous learning and fulfilling personal goals, instead of living through others. She sees too many older women sacrificing their identities to their roles as spouses, parents and grandparents, instead of discovering new endeavors and crafting meaningful futures for themselves.
In Diane’s words, “Don’t judge your self worth by what others offer you.” Stay tuned for Diane’s third act – she’ll be introducing products and services to make later life affirming, uplifting, and the best act of all.