BOSTON — Leave it to Donna Karan to lead an impromptu meditation session in the midst of her keynote speech Saturday at the Intercollegiate Business Conference at the Hynes Convention Center here. As the designer guided a full ballroom of power-suited Ivy League women through a series of visualizations, one could almost hear breaths drawn deeper and jaws unclenching.
For this event — a career-development day organized by Harvard’s Undergraduate Women in Business club, which draws coeds from more than 70 universities — Karan was frank in previewing the tensions women experience between career and family.
“What comes first is a big question, and it’s a tough one,” said Karan, who flicked through slides of her first ad campaign, in 1986, which featured a harried woman in an evening dress reading a newspaper while an infant plays with her string of beads nearby. She talked about failing draping as an undergrad at Parsons School of Design, and being rejected by WWD when she sought work as an illustrator.
“Get ready to be slapped in the face a lot,” she told the crowd. “Put on your padding.”
Before she triumphed at Anne Klein as its designer, she sharpened pencils, ran errands and fetched coffee.
She injected plenty of humor into the talk, quipping at a childhood slide of herself: “There I was, 10-and-a-half pounds at birth, a fat little baby girl. At that moment, I decided clothes had to fit and be comfortable.”
As one who sees infinite nuances in the color black, she was delighted the crowd was wearing so much of it (that, and arty glasses, were the main sartorial statements).
“God bless black,” she said, prompting applause. Karan herself was clad in an all-noir ensemble that highlighted the amber tones of a large horn necklace and a sleeve of bracelets made by Haitian craftspeople. She called her work with the earthquake-devastated country, for which she recently received the Clinton Global Citizen Award, “One of my life’s highlights.” But for Karan, philanthropy always mixes with good storytelling and her flair for commerce. She flies to Haiti once a month, hopping on the back of a truck to journey to Jacmel, a seaside artist community where she designs and produces items for her three Urban Zen stores. She snatched up the résumé of one Babson College student who stood up to say she’d recently visited Jacmel and was impressed by its workshops.
Inspired by what John Hardy did for jewelry making in Bali, Karan is working with the Jacmel community to market itself globally and to reimagine its traditional arts. Instead of using papier-mâché just to make masks, for example, Karan has reimagined it fashioned into basket-weave totes, which are a much easier sale. She’d like to expand the Urban Zen concept, and plans eventually to take it into e-commerce, although there are no specific time frames on either.
“I believe there’s a place and a space for a collection for a conscious consumer,” she said.
Despite a packed schedule, Karan shook off any notion that there’s a next chapter coming where she’d tend just to the hearth of her family (seven grandchildren) and her many philanthropies.
“Once a designer, always a designer,” she says. “Anne [Klein] taught me that.”
London’s newly opened @designmuseum will look back on the life and work of Azzedine Alaïa in a show that the designer helped to curate before he died of heart failure last month. The retrospective, which Alaïa had worked on with Mark Wilson, chief curator of the @groningermuseum, will look at the impact of his work worldwide. The show, “Azzedine Alaïa: The Couturier,” will run from May 10 to October 7. Read more about the exhibit on WWD.com #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @zefashioninsider)
@Pharrell and his wife Helen Lasichanh were among the stars that came out to celebrate @rimowa’s first pop-up concept shop. The space, which is located on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, draws inspiration from airport luggage carousels and lounge areas – and features the company’s luggage and accessories. If the pop-up is successful it could pave the way for addition temporary shops throughout the world. #wwdfashion (📷: Owen Kolasinski/BFA)
@carineroitfeld celebrated @crfashionbook’s first calendar last night with a dinner party at Spring Place in Manhattan. Photographed by @stevenkleinstudio, the calendar takes on a fitness theme and features @joansmalls, @gigihadid, @danielle_herrington_ – pictured here – and more. “[Carine Roitfeld] wanted me to feel sexy and she wanted me to be myself and feel it out on my own and do what I felt was right,” said Herrington, aka Miss October. #wwdeye
@saintrecords and @virgilabloh last night at @americanexpress’ “A Night With Success Makers” event. “I always bring it back to community because without that I wouldn’t have the courage,” said Knowles when asked how she has gotten where she is now. Read more highlights from their conversation on WWD.com. #wwdeye (📷: @lizdoupnik)
This Just In: Industry sources have told WWD that Anastasia Soare is rumored to be considering selling her beauty business, @anastasiabeverlyhills. According to those sources, Soare has tapped investment bank Imperial Capital to explore sale options for her eponymous beauty brand –– and with at least $340 million in net sales, this would be a big deal. Put in context of other recent transactions for makeup companies, Soare’s price tag could be in the billions if she were to sell the whole thing. #wwdnews #wwdbeauty (📷: @clint_spaulding)
@assouline’s latest book, “The Spirit of Bentley: Be Extraordinary” captures the adventurous attitudes and opulent lifestyles of @bentleymotors’ most creative owners and enthusiasts throughout the U.K. The 292-page hardcover has a section dedicated to showing its team of skilled artisans and photos of its most colorful owners, from George Bamford to designer @alicetemperley, pictured here by Aline Coquelle. #wwdeye
@google released its report on the most popular search terms this year. For fashion brands, the list was led by @gucci, the luxury brand that stunned the market last October when it pledged to stop using fur. Runner ups were @supremenewyork and @fashionnova, along with more established brands like @louisvuitton, @chanelofficial and @ysl. #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
In yet another fashion show shuffle, @elleryland is moving its show in sync with the Paris couture calendar — though the brand is still keeping one foot on the city’s ready-to-wear schedule. Their runway show in January will coincide with the launch of a new strategy: designing two main collections each year instead of four, which will then be released in four drops. “As we all know, the system needs to change. We need to show sooner to give time back to artisans and designers to do what they do best — create,” said founder Kym Ellery. #wwdnews #wwdfashion (📷: @kukukuba)
@maxmara’s classic 101801 coat was the cornerstone of its pre-fall 2018 collection. The design team expanded the traditional double-breasted, kimono-sleeved style into a trapeze coat, lean belted styles and a peacoat and presented them in monochromatic looks – like the camel one pictured here. #wwdfashion #prefall18 (📷: George Chinsee)