Donna Ivy Faske
October 2, 1948
New York City, U.S.
|Alma mater||The New School|
Karan was born Donna Ivy Faske to mother Helen "Queenie" Faske (née Rabinowitz) and father Gabriel "Gabby" Faske (born Faskowitz) in the Forest Hills neighborhood of the Borough of Queens, New York City. Her family is Jewish. Karan's mother had been a model and had also worked in designer Chester Weinberg's showroom. Her father was a tailor and haberdasher who died when Donna was three years old.
Karan and her older sister Gail were raised by their mother in Woodmere, in the Five Towns region of Nassau County, New York. Donna took pleasure in softball, volleyball, and basketball, cut classes in high school, and passed much of her time in the art department. She graduated from Hewlett High School in 1966, and then went to the Parsons School of Design.
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'Olio, 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 centered around the bodysuit which could all be mixed and matched, and created a fully integrated wardrobe with her First Collection in 1985. Karan always insisted that she would design only clothes like jersey dresses and opaque Lycra tights that she would 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. In 1992, Karan also released her "cold shoulder" dress, a jersey long-sleeved dress which featured deep cutouts at the shoulders to reveal the skin beneath.
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.
- 1977: Coty American Fashion Critics’ Award
- 1982: Coty American Fashion Critics’ Award (together with Louis Dell’Ollio for Anne Klein)
- 1984: Inducted into the Coty Hall Of Fame.
- 1985, 1986, 1987: special CFDA awards
- 1992: Menswear Designer of the Year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA)
- 1990, 1996: Womenswear Designer of the Year by the CFDA
- 2004: Lifetime Achievement Award by the CFDA
- 1994:Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement
In 1976 Donna Faske married Mark Karan, with whom she had a daughter, Gabby Karan De Felice. They divorced in 1978. In 1983, she married artist Stephan Weiss, who would later become co-CEO of the Donna Karan company. They had one son, Corey Weiss. Weiss died of lung cancer in 2001.
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