New York Fashion Week —Happy 30th! Why We Love Donna Karan

Donna Karan

She is inimitably, peerlessly, fabulously, magnificently….Donna.

Season after season, designing stellar collections for a sophisticated, modern, and yet youthful woman, Donna Karan sets the bar high for other designers to follow, and she keeps “besting-her-best,” creating clothes that are elementally beautiful, sophisticated, easy to wear, impeccable and executed with perfection—and panache.

“Iconic dressing in timeless pieces,” one fashionista calls her creations, “There is no other like her.”

She presciently—and literally, led an entire industry into easy-to-wear, fabulous pieces, and yet she is, right now, at the top of her game.

Celebrating 30 years at the acme of fashion with her own eponymous business—Donna Karan New York, Donna is more than renowned. She is revered.

She told Vogue: “Thirty years later, I see style as an evolution,” Karan wrote in her show notes. “A unique reflection of who you are, where you’ve been, and where you’re going.” Then, as always, “The journey continues . . .”

Donna Karan is more than a woman, a brand, a lifestyle—she is a force of nature.

She began as Donna Faske, born in Queens, New York in 1948. Her mother was a showroom model—and her father a suitmaker.

Donna attended Parsons School of Design in New York City, then received an internship with Anne Klein—and within two years was appointed associate designer of the brand. By the time she was 26 she was head designer.

But Donna Karan had another dream.

In 1984 she created Donna Karan New York with late husband, noted sculptor Stephan Weiss.

The next year—in 1985, she made headlines around the world with her first collection—“7 Easy Pieces.” The brilliant idea was that any number of clothing combinations could be created from a body suit with pieces such as knit pants, a wrap skirt, jackets or cashmere tops to create a look in which women would not only feel comfortable, but which is timeless, classic–and one that they can care for easily.

It was the “fashion roar” heard round the world.

Donna won her first Council of Fashion Designers of America Womenswear Designer of the Year award in 1986, and again in 1987, 1990 and 1997.

In 1988 she launched DKNY, a younger, contemporary fashion line of that has become a powerhouse brand worldwide.

Karan incorporated stretch material in men’s suits in 1991 and is the first woman to be awarded the CFDA Menswear Designer of The Year award in 1993. That same year Donna Karan took her company public.

In 2004, Donna Karen New York, Karan was awarded the CFDA Lifetime Achievement award. Since then Karan’s ideals and designs have also taken shape in fragrances, beauty products, accessories, handbags, a signature jean collection, lingerie and home furnishings and licenses many more. Donna Karan International (DKI) also owns and operates freestanding stores in fashion capitals around the world, including New York, Los Angeles, London and other cities.

There is nothing she cannot tackle.

Her Fall 2014 collection was hailed as an exquisite panoply of black. And each “black” piece illustrated the shades of darkness can cast their own light. “It’s really easy to get colors right,” Donna has said, “It’s really hard to get black – and neutrals – right. Black is certainly a color but it’s also an illusion.”

Donna is a master at showcasing diametric opposites anent each other—the yin and yang of shapes—hard and soft, structured vs loose. We at Lives of Style love her chiffons—her tailored jackets and coats, the sexy way a Donna Karan dress hugs the legs and flatters the thighs—and shoulders. She makes clothing come alive—and it’s exciting to see that embellishments and embroideries only add to the dynamism of the clothes.

Her gowns are worn on the red carpet and covers of Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and other fashion magazines—most recently at the 2014 Emmys, where Masters of Sex’s Lizzy Caplan was stunning in a sweeping black-and-white Donna Karan gown—by hundreds of major celebrities, including Barbra Streisand, Sofia Vergara, Cate Blanchett, Kate Hudson, Penelope Cruz, Demi Moore, Katie Holmes, Brooke Shields, Marisa Berenson, Nicole Richie, Jennifer Hudson and many more….and political figures, such as First Lady Michelle Obama, former President Bill Clinton and his wife, former Secretary of State Hilary Clinton.

In 2007 Donna formed the Urban Zen Foundation—dedicated to well-being, preserving culture and empowering children. UCLA Health is the first hospital on the West Coast to adopt the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program (others are on the East Coast), where UCLA Health caregivers are trained in providing gentle healing, Eastern modalities to help with treatment and long-term care: Yoga, Reiki, Essential oils and Contemplative Care—something Donna found sorely lacking when her husband Stephan was dying of lung cancer in 2001.

We at Lives of Style have been privileged to have spent time with Donna Karan, from New York Fashion Week to events in Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and San Francisco. We have seen her straightaway after a runway show, watched her performing Reiki on long-term care patients at UCLA, heard her reminisce about her late husband Stephan and “Connecting the Dots,” met her children–and grandchildren. We gleaned her lodestars, tenets and guides to life–a life she designs holistically, to also incorporate healthfulness, philanthropy, family, friendship and love.

A humanitarian to her core—and though her beloved New Yorkers dubbed her “Queen of 7th Avenue”—she belongs to the world.

While her iconic life-changing designs that have taken the world of womenswear to new heights—and so much more, she inspires us—to push the envelope, be better people and to go for our dreams.

Her warmth and humanity are palpable and her millions of customers and fans worldwide are Donna devotees.

I will never forget waiting for Donna at the top of an escalator at Saks Fifth Avenue in San Francisco. Donna, who was two floors down—looked up spied me. Before I could say anything she beamed her 1000 watt smile, “Hi,” she shouted, “I’m glad to see you.”

No wonder the whole world loves her.

We cannot wait to see what she brings to life in her Spring/Summer 2015 collection.

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