Donna Karan Biography | What Is Donna Karan Known For
Designers

The Biography and Life Journey of an Iconic New York Designer, “Queen of Seventh Avenue” — Donna Karan

Donna Karan is one of the trendsetters of modern fashion, the founder of Donna Karan and DKNY (Donna Karan New York) brands. But while famous designers try to put women in high heels and tighten them in luxurious fabrics, this American woman focuses on comfort and coziness. Donna Karan owns the “Seven Simple Things” concept. But what is Donna Karan known for? And what does DKNYstand for? We suggest you find out the DKNY meaning and get to know the legendary designer Donna Karan better.

Childhood and Youth

donna karan youth

Who is Donna Karan? Donna Ivy Faske (the designer’s real name) was born in Forest Hills, Queens on October 2, 1948. Her parents, Helen and Gabby, were Jewish and worked in fashion. Her mother, under the creative pseudonym of Quinny, performed in the showroom of Chester Weinberg, the future designer of the Calvin Klein brand. Donna’s father was a tailor.

The head of the Faske family died in 1951. Raising the children, Donna and her older sister Gail, fell to Helen. The woman had to leave her career as a model for the welfare of her daughters. Donna Karan’s childhood was spent in Nassau County, New York. It was here that Donna Karan young developed a taste for beauty, and later this geographical place was immortalized in the name of the Donna Karan brand.

donna karan young

After the death of Donna Karan’s husband, Helen Faske married model Harold Flexman. Donna and Gail began to be taken to movie sets again. There the sisters saw the backstage of the fashion world. At 14, the future businesswoman got a job as a salesperson in the store of the Belgian fashion designer Liz Clybourne.

In 1966, Donna received a general education at Hewlett School. Achieved impressive athletic success – she was captain of the team in softball, volleyball, basketball. She also went to the Parsons School of Design. She dreamed of creating something worthy of her mother.

Fashion and Business

In 1968 Anna Klein, the founder of the women’s sportswear brand, invited Donna Karan to be her assistant. Working in the fashion house of the leading fashion designer of the 1960s dragged the girl so much that she dropped out of her studies. She did not want to retake the draping exam. Later, in interviews with glossy publications, Donna Karan’s signature still tells us that it was Klein who influenced her creative formation.

Donna Karan’s career progression was rapid: first Donna led the Anne Klein design team, then became a partner in the company. In 1971, a young American actually became the head of the brand, as the founder of the fashion house became seriously ill.

donna karan photo

In the early 1970s, Donna got married. She had already intended to leave the world of fashion, but Klein died in 1974. In it, the designer ordered the transfer of the rights of the fashion house to her faithful colleague. The 26-year-old American became the heir to the great Anne Klein empire. According to other sources of the Donna Karan bio, the rights to Anne Klein were inherited by the Japanese company Takihyo Corporation, and Donna, along with a former classmate and friend Louis Dell’Olio, headed the design team.

One way or another, Donna has succeeded in the 10 years she has given to the brand. In Donna Karan’s 80s memory of the trendsetter, a woman released the Anne Klein II collection in 1982, which consisted mainly of perfume and watches. The Donna Karan designs and this collection are still in demand today. Karan was also twice awarded the Coty American Fashion Critics’ Awards as an Anne Klein designer. Her name is immortalized in the brand’s Hall of Fame.

After the release of Anne Klein II, Donna Karan seriously considered creating her own fashion house. In 1984, Donna Karan’s first collection 1985 and her debut of clothing for dynamic women, The Essentials, a more common name, Seven Easy Pieces, appeared.

photo donna karan

The concept of the Donna Karan label “Seven Easy Pieces” claims that it is enough for a woman to have seven items of clothing to look elegant and feel comfortable in any condition. And it does not matter at all whether it is a working day, an evening reception, or an acquaintance with the parents.

She had several adaptations of the composition of the “simple” closet. According to Donna Karan couture and official website, the essentials include:

  • jacket, 
  • a skirt, 
  • pants, 
  • cashmere sweater, 
  • leather jacket
  • dress,
  • body. 

By the way, it was thanks to Karan that bodysuits came into fashion.

The concept of “Seven Simple Things” created a furor in the United States – women liked having only seven items of clothing, to create an evening, business and everyday image. And in 1985, Donna Karan fell in love with the public forever. She released a collection of tight stockings and tights. Thanks to this innovation, the Council of Fashion Designers of the United States announced Karan as Fashion Designer of the Year.

DKNY History

What is DKNY? And what does DKNY mean? Fashion designer Donna Karan created the DKNY brand in 1989 thanks to her daughter Gabrielle. In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar magazine, the fashion designer said that, like many girls, Gabrielle considered her mother’s closet as her own. She wore couture not only Donna Karan dresses to school without thinking about their cost. Then Karan realized that she had forgotten about the other generation. She had created clothes for herself and her friends in Donna Karan style before, but she had forgotten about her daughter and her peers.

wedding dress donna karan

DKNY clothes were inexpensive and quickly became popular. Donna Karan became the first designer of the haute couture world to produce mass-market products. The woman was dubbed the “Queen of Seventh Avenue”. After all, all the ordinary girls were dressed in DKNY.

Evolution of the Brand

Accessories and perfume have always been an integral part of Donna Karan collections. Handbags, watches, shoes, glasses, even linens are still part of the culture of America. And the legendary Be Delicious fragrances in the shape of a green apple bottle remain beloved by audiences.  In 1992 men got the opportunity to wear the brand and Donna Karan signature suit – The Essentials for Man collection was released for them.

In 2004 Assouline published a book titled “The Journey of a Woman; 20 Years of Donna Karan” recognizing Donna Karan’s contribution to the fashion industry. The biography of the designer, her sources of inspiration, and interviews were interspersed with photos of the most successful looks and iconic outfits.

Personal Life

donna karan wedding dress

In the early 1970s, the fashion designer married entrepreneur and childhood friend Marc Karan. The couple had been together since the age of 16. In 1978, Marc could not withstand the frantic pace of his wife’s life and filed for divorce.

One of the interesting Donna Karan facts: Donna fell in love with her second husband, sculptor Stephen Weiss, during an engagement party with Mark. The fashion designer admits that she thought about him all the time.

In the end, Donna talked herself out of this crazy crush. The fact that Stephen was ten years older than Karan also stopped her.

The biography of the fashion designer indicates that age was not a hindrance for the loving hearts. In fact, in 1983, Donna and Steven got married. Other sources of Donna Karan biography indicate that it happened back in 1978, immediately after the divorce. Their happy personal life was cut short by illness – in 2001, Weiss died of lung cancer.

Donna Karan These Days

donna karan

Despite the fact that Donna Karan products are still available for purchase (for example, in 2017 the top request was the eau de toilette Cashmere), the fashion designer herself retired from business. In 1997, the American left the position of CEO of Donna Karan line. And after the death of her husband, she also left the post of chief designer.

Back in 2007, Karan founded the Urban Zen Foundation, and it is to it that the fashion designer now devotes all her time. “Urban Zen” appeals to the preservation of culture, enrichment of body and spirit, and education.

Health occupies an important part: the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy program operates within the foundation. It is based on a combination of Eastern healing methods and Western science. One of the main directions is the eradication of AIDS.

Now under the name of Donna Karan, various novelties are still being created. For example, “Be Delicious” now has three new interpretations – Lime Mojito, Bay Breeze, and Mai Tai. Although the designer herself is no longer directly involved in the creation of these products.

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