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Donna Karan Photo by Ruven Afanador

Donna was born into fashion on Long Island.
Not only was her father Gabby Faske (who died when Karan was three) a tailor, her mother
Helen was a showroom model and fashion sales representative.
Even Karans stepfather Harold Flaxman was in the fashion business.
Karan, while still in high school, designed her first collection and staged her first show.
She attended the Parsons School of Design for two years, leaving at the age of nineteen to
work for the ready-to-wear designer Anne Klein.
Klein fired Karan in short order, but rehired her two years later.
When Anne Klein died of cancer in 1974, Karan was put in charge of Klein's Seventh
Avenue sportswear company at the age of twenty-six, just days after having given birth to a
baby girl.
Louis Dellolio, a Parsons friend, joined her a year later.

The growing skyline of Long Island City, Queens

During Karan's decade-long tenure as head designer, she built Anne Klein into the most
profitable sportswear company in the United States.
In a foreshadow of DKNY , she launched Anne Klein II, a so-called bridge line of clothes
priced slightly lower than the signature collection and meant for the working woman,
basically originating the concept of bridge and lifestyle dressing in fashion.
So successful was the concept that the company's financial backers, Tomio Taki and
Frank Mori, invested $10 million in working capital for Karan to start her own collection.
She turned over the reins at Anne Klein to her assistant, Louis Dell'Olio, in 1984.
The owner of Anne Klein & Co. Fall 1985 saw the first Donna Karan New York collection,
a fast fashion line with an urban bent, and the reaction from the press and retailers
proved once again that Karan made fashion history.
Everything I do is a matter of heart, body and soul, says Donna Karan, chief designer of
the international company that bears her name. For me, designing is an expression of
who I am as a woman, with all the complications, feelings and emotions.
Design is a constant challenge to balance comfort with luxe, the practical with the
"I don't like fashion," Karan once said. "To me, it's the woman, the body." She described
herself not as a fashion designer but as a "doctor for women's problems." She added, "In
all the chaos I live in, I always want to create calm."
Im designing for an international man and woman. A creative person who never knows
where a day is going to take them, says Karan. Thats why New York is on the label. It
sets the pace, the attitude.

Karan's Urban Zen Initiative, founded in 2007, is the culmination of Karan's

philanthropic efforts. Explains Karan, "I founded the Urban Zen Initiative to create a
working structure for advancing wellness, preserving culture and empowering children.
These are causes that mean the world to me
Her style
If there's one designer who embodies all that
New York City stands for, it's Donna Karan.
Her ability to channel the city's energy and
attitude into not one, but two successful
collections is how she can dream up both
breathtaking red carpet creations and cool
downtown street-chic pieces.
For Karan, its never been just about clothes; its
about lifestyles.
She sees the entire picture from head-to-toe,
from function to aesthetic.
Handbags and shoes are designed right
alongside the clothes. How do I dress the leg?
inspired Donna Karan Hosiery.
The right bra? Donna Karan Intimates. The
perfect glasses? Donna Karan Eyewear. The list
goes on to include belts, accessories and, as
Karan puts it, everything you need to pull
yourself together.
A modern system of dressing, Karans concept is
based on Seven Easy Pieces, where a handful of
interchangeable items work together to create an
entire wardrobe that goes from day to evening,
weekday to weekend, season to season.
Quintessential hallmarks include black cashmere,
leather, stretch and moulded fabrics, often exclusively
developed by Karan, as well as silhouettes that wrap
and sculpt the body. changed the C-suite womans
Her trademark style: comfortable, elegant and
ultimately simple combinations that suit busy, working
women, including the rich and famous.
Her Seven Easy Pieces a body suit, pants, jacket,
skirt, suede jacket, coat, sequined skirt mostly in
shades of black set the standard for a sophisticate
who wanted to go from work to dinner, without a lot of
Karans original intent was to design a more feminine
line that was still elegant and functional
When she began her line, she got a lot of attention for
what she called "seven easy pieces."
"I needed a wardrobe, a real clear defined wardrobe
that would take me from day into evening," Karan
explained. "You know, I start with a body suit, wrap a
skirt around, which you know is the kind of thing that I
would wear, a scarf or a sarong. Add a tailored jacket
and a scarf and you go."
She also has a knack for drawing publicity, as with a
1992 ad campaign featuring a woman president.
Her sexy, monochromatic outfits were part of the story,
but so was Ms. Karans work in philanthropy and her
delightfully kooky, new age persona.
Her idea of fashion was almost anti-elitist.
Karan herself has never been skinny, and she has
always been open about having hangups about her
hips and thighs, and about being constantly mindful of
this when designing clothes.
There is a yawning gap in fashion between the reality
most women face getting dressed trying to find
clothes which flatter their bodies, accentuate their
favourite bits, skim over other bits and the charade
acted out by most designers in which everyone is 5ft
10in and slender and can wear anything.
1992 ad
campaign In
Women We Trust
depicted model
Hillary Clinton wearing a dress by Donna Karan at the White
McGrotha going
through the
motions of a
recently elected
public official, all
in Karans famous
House in 1993

It's 1989, and DKNY is born, a fast fashion line with an urban bent.
Donna Karan international has two hundred company-owned and licensed free standing Donna
Karan Collection, DKNY, and DKNY Jeans stores worldwide.
Karans quest for the perfect jeans, as well as her desire to dress her daughter Gabby, resulted in
the 1989 birth of DKNY.
DKNY is what Karan calls the pizza to collections caviar.
DKNY grew so popular and diverse that other brands and labels spun from it, including DKNY
Jeans, DKNY Active, DKNY Underwear, DKNY Jeans Juniors, and DKNY Kids
In July 1991 she launched her first menswear collection. DKNY Men, launched in 1992, consists of
tailored suits, dress wear, formalwear, casual wear, sportswear, and shoes.
The first flagships opened in London DKNY in 1994, and Collection two years later.
1999 marked the opening of the uptown New York City DKNY flagship store, located at
60th street and Madison Avenue, and two years later, came the downtown DKNY flagship
on West Broadway in SoHo.
In 2001 Karan opened the Donna Karan New York flagship store, the premiere collection
showcase, at 819 Madison.
Karan took on the world of beauty in 1992 under the business and creative leadership of
her husband, who designed the bottles and jars for the signature fragrances and their
ancillary products. The beauty division went on to introduce best-selling fragrances.
Completing the lifestyle approach to design, in 2001 Karan introduced a Donna Karan
Home Collection all about touch and feel, which includes everything from luxe bedding
and candles to cashmere throws, and DKNY Home, which accents interiors with fashion-
forward bedding and accessories.
There are also Donna Karan and DKNY Lenox Table and Giftware collections as well.

DKNY Madison Avenue

Donnas brand was instantly popular but it often struggled financially. In her book, she
describes monthly meetings with her partners as stressful and antagonistic, and she
initially resisted their suggestion of an IPO as an antidote to the companys serious cash
flow problems.
She eventually capitulated and when DKI went public in June of 1996, shares increased
25% on the first day. When the company was acquired by LVMH in 2001, she writes that
she was saved from the public company nightmare.
Earlier this year, though, Karan stepped down from the eponymous fashion company she
founded with her late husband. Her split from LVMH, the luxury goods conglomerate that
bought Donna Karan International (DKI) and its licensing arm, Gabrielle Studio, in 2001
for $643 million, was preceded by rumblings that all was not well with the partnership.
In July, LVMH announced that it would put the DKI brand on hold, and focus instead on
DKNY, a lower-priced brand that targets younger consumers. Karan says that LVMHs
plans to shelve the DKI brand was a very difficult pill to swallow, to say the least.

LVMH Sells Donna Karan to G-III Apparel for $650

With friends Ashton Kurtcher and Demi Moore, Karan launched Urban Zen Foundation in
She believes that the Urban Zen brand will resonate with a new generation of consumers
and designers. Its more than fashion, she says. Its a movement. Theyre involved in
the craft of the garment theyre wearing,
Her original agreement with LVMH was that she could start Urban Zen as long as it
remained a high-end brand with distribution that did not compete with any of the Donna
Karan brands.
For Karan, that means Urban Zen, which she describes as an East meets West lifestyle
brand that is interested in both philanthropy and commerce must sell its clothing,
accessories, house wares, and furniture exclusively in its own stores or though a select
group of small retailers.
Last June, she further expanded the brand to include e-commerce through her Urban
Zen website. Karan says shes very comfortable with the direct to consumer model.
Karan now devotes 100% of her time to Urban Zen, the company she started in 2007
with LVMHs approval.
With Urban Zen, she says, she is back in creative control and approaching growth in
a more deliberate fashion. Its back to basics, she says. Fashionable basics.
Think $1300 sweaters and $800 skirts and pants. The company has no outside
investors, has just three stores (in Manhattan, Sag Harbor, and Aspen), and a small
team of 25 employees. Karan is CEO, a role she says she never played at DKI
In addition to Urban Zen retail, shes established Urban Zen Foundation, which
funds integrative health, culture preservation, and education initiatives.
At New York
fashion week
on Monday
evening, there
was more fuel
to the fire: the
finale of the
DKNY show
featured about
40 models in This was the first show
boiler suits. for DKNY since it was
Case closed. bought by production
company G-III
A member of CFDAs board of
directors, Karan conceived and
spearheaded its Seventh on Sale
benefits to raise funds for AIDS
awareness and education.
Karan co-chairs the annual New
York Kids for Kids events for the
Elizabeth Glaser Paediatric AIDS
Foundation, as she has since its
1993 inception
She underwrites Super
Saturday, an annual designer
flea market/barbeque founded
with the late Liz Tilberis in 1998
to benefit the Ovarian Cancer
Research Fund.
To facilitate her many on-going
philanthropic involvements, in
1999, Karan and Weiss
established the Karan Weiss
In 1973, Ms. Karan travelled to France for the Battle of Versailles, where five American designers Oscar de la
Renta, Stephen Burrows, Halston, Bill Blass and Anne Klein competed against a team including Yves Saint Laurent,
Pierre Cardin, Hubert de Givenchy and Christian Dior in an attempt to raise money for the palace.

In his honour of her husband, she has funded a pilot program at Beth Israel Medical Centre, offering yoga, meditation,
and relaxation therapies for both staff and patients, like Isaac Broderick
Through Urban Zen, Karan, an honorary ambassador to Haiti- works closely with the Clinton Global Initiative to support
& develop Haitian artisan commerce. She has also opened a vocational education school in Haiti to train artisans.

The Council of Fashion Designers of America has saluted her six times
In 2010 she was nominated for their Womenswear Designer of the Year Award.
In 2003, Karan was the first American designer to receive Fashion Group International's "Superstar
A year later, Karan's alma mater Parson's gave her an honorary doctorate to commemorate her
contribution to the school and fashion industry.
In 2007, Glamour magazine named Karan one of their Women of the Year.
President Clinton asked Karan to design the prestigious Clinton Global Citizen Award in 2010, an
honor he then presented her with for her work with the Urban Zen Haiti Artisan Project.
Karan was also honored with a Gordon Parks Foundation Award for using creative means to change
and educate the world.

2016 CFDA Awards

How Karan meets that challenge can run from the simplicity of a bodysuit (where it all began) to the
artisan glamour of a limited edition hand-painted DeVor dress. Whatever form the design takes, Karan
will tell you it begins and ends with the body its sensual expression, sense of security, and freedom of
In the 1980s, a time when many professional women in the United States were dressing in pinstriped
power suits and collared silk blouses with bows at the neck, Karan provided an attractive alternative. Her
system of dressing was based on a cashmere bodysuit, on top of which could be layered silk body
blouses, sweater-like jackets, unconstructed blazers, and easy-fitting skirts or trousers.
"I have seen women transform themselves when they put on her clothes ," said Kal Ruttenstein,
fashion director of Bloomingdale's department store. "They make you look sexy and strong, a rare
We have been in a period of diminishing the role of the designer in favor of the brand, but when the
designer is the brand, his or her contribution is undeniable.
The designer Narciso Rodriguez studied under Ms. Karan when she was the head of Anne Klein. She
could take a piece of fabric and wrap it around herself and turn it into an entire collection , he
recalled. She was a real designer that way, not a marketing manager. And she did something very few
designers ever do, which is change the way women dressed.
Donna changed the game because she brought femininity to a powerful woman, said the stylist Lori
Goldstein. You could still be powerful and an executive and dress like a woman, and thats what I think
will be her legacy.
Urban Zen from the beginning, making a connection between her creativity and her caring. said Steven
Kolb, the chief executive officer of the Council of Fashion Designers of America.
Social circle

Among her fans who have become friends: Susan Sarandon, Brooke Shields and
Demi Moore.
Karan dressed presidents (Bill Clinton gave her two days notice to make a suit for his
inauguration), movie stars (Barbra Streisand is her best pal),