Part therapist, part industry cheerleader and part guru on how to accentuate a woman’s best features, Donna Karan took her message directly to more than 120 invited fans at Neiman Marcus at NorthPark Center in Dallas on Tuesday.
The stage was set for Karan to narrate a presentation of her fall collection along with Neiman’s fashion director, Ken Downing. But her remarks ranged far beyond touting her sensual draping and strong-shouldered jackets that “delete the hips.”
The designer urged her attentive audience to “find your truth in what you want” in their careers and to “think about how many lives you are supporting” when shopping for clothes.
“We really will have a disaster if something happens to the fashion industry,” she warned.
The guests, women of all ages, spontaneously applauded several looks, including a long belted reversible shearling vest, an artfully draped gray jersey dress and a caramel leather belted jacket, among others.
“We are strong women — we’ve got a lot to do,” she said, as a model strolled out in a cobalt blue jacket with a dramatic oversize collar. “We’ve got to take over the world because the men need help right now.…We’ve got the power, strength and commitment, and we are all here to support each other and make a difference in this world.”
Afterward, a student journalist asked Karan for advice for her readers. “Follow your heart,” she said. “Make sure you love what you do.”
It was the first time Karan had appeared at Neiman’s in Dallas since 1992, when she visited NorthPark to promote her first fragrance. The goal this trip was to motivate shopping in season, she said during the 11 a.m. reception before the leisurely paced fashion show.
“Let’s deal with fall in fall, not fall in spring and summer,” Karan asserted. “The consumer right now needs to be excited about a season within a season, and not to have it be on the racks for so long that they have to buy fall clothes in June.”
Karan has been urging the industry for years to ship closer to season and maintain full price on clothing during the months it’s intended to be worn.
“I think Fashion’s Night Out is an incredible opportunity to look at realigning the country in season,” she said of the Sept. 10 event, adding she wished it weren’t taking place during New York Fashion Week, when media will focus on spring 2010 collections.
“The consumer is getting too much information about a season that’s about an industry,” Karan said, referring to coverage of runway shows. “We have to lower the press line on that and bring the press up to seasonal dressing. If you see a movie, the press writes about a movie when it is coming out.”
The bottom line is that designers and retailers need to sit down together and work on a new strategy, she said.
“It’s a movement that has to be changed in this industry, particularly now,” she said. “It must. It shouldn’t have to come to the point of what’s wrong with the system.”
Karan’s business is growing at Neiman’s, according to Ann Stordahl, senior vice president and general merchandise manager.
“Donna is always able to home in on what a woman needs that will not only fit her lifestyle but make her look and feel attractive,” she said.
Downing made a similar presentation with Karan in June at Neiman’s in San Francisco.
“We had an overwhelming response and had lovely store and trunk show sales,” he recalled. “It’s been a while since Donna’s been in stores, and it reflects the times. The Donna customer — it’s like a cult. Donna’s ability to take jersey and move it across a woman’s body is unmatched.”
Just before they relinquished their microphones at the Dallas event, Downing asked Karan where their next gig would be.