Donna Karan

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Donna Karan
Donna Karan VF 2012 Shankbone.JPG
Karan at the 2012 Tribeca Film Festival
Born Donna Karan
(1948-10-02) October 2, 1948 (age 68)
Queens, New York, United States
Nationality American
Education Hewlett High School
The New School (Parsons division)
Occupation Fashion designer
Spouse(s) Mark Karan (1976–1978)
Stephan Weiss (1983–2001; his death)
Labels Donna Karan

Donna Karan (born October 2, 1948), also known under the alias "DK", is an American fashion designer and the creator of the Donna Karan New York and DKNY clothing labels.

Early life[edit]

Karan was born Donna Ivy Faske to mother Helen ("Queenie") and father Gabby Faske in the Forest Hills neighborhood of the Borough of Queens, New York City. Her family is Jewish.[1][2] 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.[3][4][5] She graduated from Hewlett High School in 1966,[6] and then went to the Parsons School of Design.[7]


After leaving college, Karan worked for Anne Klein,[8] eventually becoming head of the Anne Klein design-team, where she remained until 1985, when she launched her Donna Karan label.

Sasha Pivovarova in DKNY by Donna Karan

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.[9]

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 only design clothes, like jersey dresses and opaque Lycra tights, that she would also wear herself.[9]

In 1988, Karan, nicknamed The Queen Of Seventh Avenue,[10] 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.[11]

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.[12] In August 2008, Karan relaunched her discontinued fragrance lines from the 1990s.[citation needed]

DKNY Spring 2012

In 2015, Donna Karan announced that she would be stepping down as head of her eponymous company to focus on her lifestyle brand, Urban Zen, established by Karan in 2007.[13]

Urban Zen embraces conscious consumerism, a harmony of philanthropy and commerce.[14] It was an idea Karan cultivated through her leadership on Seventh on Sale, the CFDA AIDS benefit, and Super Saturday, an annual Hamptons tag sale Karan created with Liz Tilberis to benefit Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.

Urban Zen offers artisan objects of desire globally curated from Donna’s travels, signature Karan-designed apparel, accessories, art and exclusive handmade Balinese furniture. [15]

Fashion icon and humanitarian Donna Karan believes through creativity, collaboration, connection and community you can change the world. This conviction lies at the heart of Urban Zen and its Foundation, established in 2007. The foundation is dedicated to three initiatives: preservation of culture (past) and bringing mind, body and spirit to healthcare (present) and education (future). The Urban Zen Center in New York is the Foundation’s home, a place and a space where like-minded individuals come together for forums, educational lectures and fundraisers.

The groundbreaking Urban Zen Integrative Therapy (UZIT) Program integrates eastern healing modalities with western science, with over 700 certified therapists working throughout the country. This initiative is close to Karan’s heart, as it was inspired by her personal experience with the healthcare system during her husband’s battle with lung cancer.

In 2010, in the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, Urban Zen launched Hope, Help & Relief Haiti in collaboration with leaders in music, fashion, film, finance and art. Karan worked with The Clinton Global Initiative to develop and support sustainable opportunities in Haiti by bringing artisan products to a global market, which led to the launch of the Haiti Artisan Project. To further advance that goal, Karan collaborated with her alma mater, Parsons School of Design, I 2015 to open D.O.T. (Design Organization Training), a Haitian vocational education center.

In 2016, immediately following Hurricane Matthew, the Urban Zen Foundation collaborated with on the ground partners to deliver critical aid in the form of emergency kits.

A world traveler and a lifelong yogi, Karan considers Urban Zen the natural extension of her desire to find the missing link in the areas she cares most about. It is also the realization of Karan’s dream not just to dress people, but to address them. Karan candidly shares her personal and professional story in her 2015 autobiography, My Journey (Ballantine/Random House).


  • 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.[16]
  • 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.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

In the early 1970s Donna Faske married Mark Karan, with whom she had a daughter. They 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.[17]

Karan currently resides in Northwest Harbor (East Hampton), New York, but maintains residences in New York City and the Turks & Caicos Islands.[18]


  1. ^ "From Ghetto to Glamour, How American Jews Toppled Paris Couture and Redesigned the Fashion Industry". Johanna Neuman. Moment (magazine). July–August 2009. Retrieved 10 April 2012. 
  2. ^ Paula E. Hyman (1997, pp. 26)
  3. ^ Hyde, Nina (31 May 1985). "Fashion". The Washington Post. Retrieved 12 October 2015. 
  4. ^ Armstrong, Lisa (2 March 2013). "Donna Karan's creative flow". Telegraph Media Group Limited. Retrieved 12 October 2015. 
  5. ^ Lada, Diana (1 March 2009). "'Donna Karan.' Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia". Jewish Women's Archive. Retrieved 12 October 2015. 
  6. ^ "1966 Hewlett High School Yearbook". Retrieved 17 July 2014. 
  7. ^ "ALUMNI LIST". The New School. The New School. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  8. ^ "Donna Karan Biography". A&E Television Networks, LLC. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  9. ^ a b "Donna Karan: Milestones". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 October 2016. 
  10. ^ "Designing Woman Donna Karan". CBS News. CBS Interactive Inc. Retrieved 18 November 2014. 
  11. ^ "Donna Karan International Annual Report 2000" (TXT). Retrieved 2015-07-17. 
  12. ^ "Donna Karan's New Vision". 2004-08-23. Retrieved 2015-07-17. 
  13. ^ Friedman, Vanessa; Bernstein, Jacob (2015-06-30). "Donna Karan Steps Down, in Major Shift for Fashion". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-03-28. 
  14. ^ {{cite web |url= }
  15. ^ "Donna Karan's Zen Comeback". 2016-11-02. Retrieved 2017-03-20. 
  16. ^ 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. 
  17. ^ "Stephen Weiss, husband and business advisor to Donna Karan, loses battle with cancer, aged 62". 2001-06-11. Retrieved 2015-07-17. 
  18. ^ 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. 


  • Paula E. Hyman, Deborah Dash Moore (1997). Jewish Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia. New York: American Jewish Historical Society. ISBN 0-4159-1936-3. 

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