Karan at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival
|Born||Donna Ivy Faske
October 2, 1948
Forest Hills, New York
|Education||Hewlett High School
The New School (Parsons division)
|Spouse(s)||Mark Karan (1976–1978)
Stephan Weiss (1983–2001; his death)
Karan began her career as an assistant designer with Anne Klein in the late 1960s, where she was promoted to associate designer in 1971. As Klein's assistant, Karan was a participant in The Battle of Versailles Fashion Show on November 28, 1973. When Klein herself died in 1974, Takihyo Corporation of Japan became the new owner and Karan, together with her former classmate and friend Louis Dell'Ollio, became head designer of the house. In 1984, Karan left Anne Klein and, together with her then husband Stephan Weiss and Takihyo Corporation, started her own business "to design modern clothes for modern people". She showed her first women's clothing collection in 1985.
Karan became well known for her 'Essentials' line, initially offering seven easy pieces which could all be mixed and matched, and created a fully integrated wardrobe. Karan always insisted that she would only design clothes, like jersey dresses and opaque Lycra tights, that she would also wear herself.
In 1988, Karan, nicknamed The Queen Of Seventh Avenue, extended her women's 'Donna Karan New York' line by creating a less expensive clothing line for younger women, called DKNY. Two years later, she created DKNY Jeans, a denim-inspired collection. DKNY for men was launched in 1992, one year after the 'Signature' line for men had been presented.
Karan left her CEO position in 1997, but continued as chairwoman and designer for the Donna Karan line. After 2002 Karan's designer contributions became less and less. In August 2008, Karan relaunched her discontinued fragrance lines from the 1990s.
Donna Karan floated an IPO of her company "Donna Karan International, Inc". The shares listed at $24. While fully explained in the fine print of the prospectus, Donna and her husband through their company "Gabrielle Studio Inc." owned all the trademarks to the product lines and were entitled to very handsome royalties. This, in effect, creamed off all the profits from DKI Inc. which was a dismal failure. The company was acquired in 2002 by LVMH for $8.50 (later increased somewhat through litigation). LVMH, however, had the good sense to also acquire the trademarks.The moral of this story is that insiders have various methods of skimming profits off the top.
- Karan won the Coty American Fashion Critics’ Award in 1977 and once again in 1982 (together with Louis Dell’Ollio for Anne Klein).
- She was inducted into the Coty Hall Of Fame in 1984.
- The Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) named her Menswear Designer of the Year 1992 and Womenswear Designer of the Year 1990 and 1996. She was a nominee for the latter again in 2003 and was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the CFDA in 2004. She won special CFDA awards in 1985, 1986 and 1987.
Karan, born as Donna Ivy Faske, is Jewish. She married Mark Karan in the early 1970s, they had a daughter and divorced in 1978. In 1983, she married artist Stephan Weiss, who would later become co-CEO of the Donna Karan company. Weiss died of lung cancer in 2001.
Karan's philanthropic work includes the Urban Zen initiative, which she founded with designer Sonja Nuttall. In March 2008, Karan sold personal belongings and vintage company samples to benefit the cause. In October, a foundation run by Karan donated $850,000 to New York's Beth Israel Medical Center.
- "1966 Hewlett High School Yearbook". classmates.com. Retrieved 17 July 2014.
- "ALUMNI LIST". The New School. The New School. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
- "Donna Karan Biography". biography.com. A&E Television Networks, LLC. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
- "Designing Woman Donna Karan". CBS News. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved 18 November 2014.
- SEC Donna Karan International annual report 2000
- Donna Karan's Vision Quest (May 21, 2005)
- Boston Herald report on PETA campaign against Karan
- Duka, John (27 May 1982). "KARAN AND DELL'OLIO VOTED INTO COTY HALL OF FAME". The New York Times (The New York Times). Retrieved 18 November 2014.
- "From Ghetto to Glamour, How American Jews Toppled Paris Couture and Redesigned the Fashion Industry". Johanna Neuman. Moment (magazine). July–August 2009. Retrieved April 10, 2012.
- Paula E. Hyman (1997, pp. 26)
- Vogue Karan's partner dies (June 11, 2001)
- Message from Founder Urban Zen web site
- New York Times report on Karan's donation to cancer charity
- Taylor, Candace (23 October 2014). "Donna Karan Lists in Turks and Caicos for $39 Million". The Wall Street Journal (Dow Jones & Company, Inc.). Retrieved 18 November 2014.