Parsons School for Design, but failed draping, ironically now one of her signatures. Then she dropped out of design school altogether. But the sense of stumbling upwards in Karan's narrative can't obscure a simple fact: for nearly 40 years, she has known precisely what New York women want to wear – and so she has dressed the world.
The city has been part of Karan's brand fabric since the beginning, when she saw a shoebox labeled 'Maud Frizon: London, Paris' and thought, “Ooh, what about Donna Karan New York?” she recalls. “To me, New York meant the world. If you start anything in New York and they accept, it catches like wildfire. And the beauty of US style is that it has become world style.”
Karan's story, at heart, is one of the American Dream. Born in Queens, raised on Long Island, she got her first retail job at 14 and joined sportswear designer Anne Klein's brand at 20. When Karan was 24 and pregnant, Klein fell ill with cancer – Karan's plans to be
a stay-at-home mom were put on hold. “Anne passed away, I had a baby and we had a collection due. That's a lot for anybody,” says Karan, who believes in destiny, yoga and the abiding perfection of a black jumpsuit. “You just had to do what you had to do.”
After ten years producing collections for the Anne Klein marque, Karan found that she was “constantly looking for a small wardrobe for me and my friends. Black leggings, a wrap-and-tie skirt – simple stuff.” That concept, Donna Karan's Seven Easy Pieces, created the origins of her capsule collection and grew into the first line under her name. "They were clothes that I really wanted. Then I found out that everyone else wanted them, too."
“To me, New York meant the WORLD. If you start anything in NEW YORK and they accept it, it catches like WILDFIRE”
All by Donna Karan