In Diane Von Furstenberg's mission to relaunch the wrap dress that made her a household name more than 20 years ago, no asset has proved more valuable than her daughter-in-law. Alexandra, 25, started out doing "the work of an intern," says Diane, 51. But she quickly proved her worth—and got promoted to creative director—by modernizing the design and choosing the splashy prints that made the 8190 dress's debut at Saks Fifth Avenue last August a sellout.
The third daughter of tycoon Robert Miller and his wife, Chantal, Alexandra wed Alexandre Von Furstenberg, a 28-year-old investment-fund manager, in 1995. Although she studied fashion at Manhattan's Parsons School of Design, Alexandra's success has hinged on her connections—and her inherent sense of style. The new wrap (shorter and sleeker than the original and made of silk rather than cotton-rayon) is a hit with hip socialites, including her well-wed sisters Pia, wife of billion-heir Christopher Getty, and Marie-Chantal, wife of Crown Prince Pavlos of Greece.
Alexandra acknowledges that she and Diane sometimes disagree but says part of what makes their relationship work "is that we're from different generations and have different tastes." To her mother-in-law, that's the point. "Her instinct," says Diane, "is what's most valuable."
Aerin & Ronald Lauder
Ronald Lauder, son of cosmetics queen Estée Lauder, says that when he hears daughter Aerin speak, "she uses the same expressions as my mother when she was younger. It's extraordinary." And there were other signs that his firstborn would link up with her grandmother's beauty business. When Aerin was 7, recalls Lauder, 53, "my wife [Jo Carole] couldn't find her copy of Vogue. We found it in Aerin's room! Seventeen I can maybe understand, but Vogue?"
Aerin, 27, who holds a degree in visual communications from the University of Pennsylvania, says she always wanted to work for the billion-dollar company that Estée, now 89 and retired, founded with her husband, Joseph, who died in 1983. Today, as director of creative product development for the 51-year-old Lauder label, Aerin is striving to attract young customers. "Generation X," she explains, "is probably the fastest-growing consumer group out there." When she proposed her first product—lipstick that lets women layer a shimmery shade over a matte one—Ronald, chairman of Clinique and Estée Lauder International, says he was skeptical. But the lipstick, Mirror Images, was an instant hit. Aerin's instincts, says Ronald, match his mother's: "She knows how to pick the exact right fragrance, the exact color."
Watching Aerin, who is married to Eric Zinterhofer, a business school student, prowl her office in 4-inch heels and a black leather mini offers a jarring contrast to the reserved style of her grandmother, who favored veiled hats and couture suits. Then again, Aerin's wardrobe is strictly designer too. "Estée was a great businesswoman," she says, "but also very fashion-conscious."
Lulu & Betsey Johnson
It might seem a teen dream to be the child of Betsey Johnson, the '60s fashion revolutionary who, at 55, still looks like a punk Pippi Longstocking. But for Johnson's conservative daughter, the connection sometimes bordered on a nightmare. "It was weird having my mom come pick me up from school with pink hair and driving this bright-yellow Mercedes convertible," says Lulu, 22, whose dad, a sculptor, has never been part of her life. Recalls Betsey: "She used to walk on the other side of the street from me and cry."
Yet after she graduated from her New York City high school, Lulu, who had modeled for Betsey since she was 8, joined her mother's company. "It wasn't planned," she says. "It just happened." Now their contrasting styles are paying off. As head of Betsey's dressier, higher-priced Ultra line, Lulu has brought refinement to her mother's trademark whimsy. "If Lulu wears it, you know it's a salable thing," Betsey admits. "If I wear it, you know it's not."
Lulu says that the two argue often, "but two seconds later, it's like nothing happened." Adds Betsey: "In meetings, everyone would say they loved something, and then Lulu would say, 'It's disgusting, and I would never wear it.' I love how direct she is."
Their close relationship extends to geography. Lulu shares a Manhattan loft with her boyfriend, Andrew Schulz, 22, a nightclub manager, just blocks from the apartment where Betsey lives with her third husband, Brian Reynolds, 51, who owns a computer business. Betsey picks up her daughter every morning. So far, Lulu spots only one major problem: "Outside of the office, you only talk about work."