Donna Karan founded her own sportswear company 31 years ago, but her first interview in WWD appeared a decade earlier, shortly after her first complete collection for the house of the late Anne Klein. The show was a hit and catapulted Karan, then 25, into fashion’s spotlight, 10 years before she would revolutionize how women dress with her seven easy pieces. In 1974, even as congratulatory telegrams and flowers flooded her design room postshow, she was full of self-effacement and insecurity: “I almost wished the collection hadn’t gone so well — what if I can’t do it again?” and “I’m from Lawrence, Long Island, so what do I know?” Upon beating her limo driver to opening the door, she lamented, “Oh hell, I do everything wrong.” She admitted to showing up at the 1973 fashion showdown at Versailles in a ponytail, expecting to dance — it was a ball, after all — but there was no dancing, and thus, she resolved to “get très chic.” Despite the angst, she maintained her vision of solving real women’s wardrobe problems and in the process made fashion history.

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This story first appeared in the July 8, 2015 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

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