Diane von Furstenberg was very clear that her wrap dress happened "by accident". Her original T-shirts morphed into wrap tops and then into wrap dresses. They caught on and have stayed in fashion for almost 40 years because they are "easy, proper, decent, and flattering and sexy". They may have happened by accident originally, but their ongoing success is directly related to von Furstenberg's drive to succeed on her own (at first), prove she was not a one-shot wonder (later), and leave a strong brand as her legacy (now).

It's often difficult to separate the brand from the personality. On the one hand, while a major attribute of the Virgin brand is Richard Branson, and a major attribute of Apple is Steve Jobs, and a major attribute of Wal-mart was Sam Walton, in each of these cases the brand name and the personality were different. Those brands will survive their founders. It's harder when the founder's name and brand name match as they do with Diane von Furstenberg.

Of course there are examples of success. The Disney brand is thriving – perhaps because its sub-brands are anything but Mickey Mouse. McDonald's is a golden arch, and maybe a clown. Very very few people think of Richard and Maurice.

von Furstenberg has spent time thinking about the difference between the brand and herself. A big part of her follow through is setting up the brand as her legacy: celebrating freedom, empowering women, color, print, bold, effortless, sexy, on the go. Of course she's a living example of the brand now. Over time, others need to step up as that example.

The holy grail of innovation is the Eureka moment – the sudden breakthrough. Those moments don't happen in vacuums. They have preludes and second acts. So prepare in advance, focus on solving problems, and follow through. Follow this link to read the overview article on Forbes.com.

 

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