NEW YORK — “I wanted to be like Barbra Streisand, but I couldn’t sing,” said Donna Karan to a packed audience full of students at Parsons The New School for Design during a Q&A with the school’s dean of fashion, Simon Collins. “But then I went into design here at Parsons and I burned my dress with an iron.”
Karan discussed her career path from her beginnings as a student at Parsons “who failed typing and draping class” to launching her main line; contemporary brand, DKNY, and shifting into philanthropy with her charitable effort, Urban Zen.
Today, Karan’s charitable efforts through the Haiti Artisan Project have provided employment for local artisans in Haiti.
“This is the answer for the entire world: We have poverty and artistry and we can go in and make a difference,” she said. “Be inspired and make a difference in the world. Dress people and address them. I love making a difference in someone’s life.”
Karan said she made her mark with stretch pants and the bodysuit.
“For me, the body was very important — and clothing with the comfort and the fit,” she said. “So thank God for stretch. I was the first person to put stretch into fabric. I was, like, this cashmere is really pretty but doesn’t go anywhere. Can you put stretch Lycra in this fabric? Everyone thought I was a person with three heads — which is no different from today, people still do.”
For the bodysuit, she said, it was for a selfish purpose: She couldn’t find a uniform to move around in during her yoga classes.
“The great thing about being a woman designer is you can be selfish and design for yourself,” she said, laughing. “When I did Donna Karan my daughter was stealing all my clothes and they needed clothes and I needed jeans that I couldn’t find in the market. I put a blazer with a pair of jeans because I wanted to see what else there was to wear with jeans.”
So DKNY was born in 1989, to appeal to the contemporary market.
Now in its 25th year, the brand competes alongside a very strong — and quickly growing — fast-fashion industry.
“People are doing cheap and deep and doing really good stuff,” she said. “At the same time, you’re not going to replace that of a collection. When you see it, feel it, touch it, you know why you’re paying a price for that. I’m not denying fast fashion’s importance. It’s like pizza and caviar. Caviar is for some people and pizza is for everyone.”
Another phenomenon absent from 25 years ago: the Internet.
“Like I said, I failed typing. I’m afraid one wrong push of the button and something will be gone forever,” she said of the Web. “Getting fast information is great, but when shopping online it’s a different experience. The idea is great, there’s no question about it. But every garment looks the same. And guess what happens? You get the garment [in the mail] and you touch it. What happens to the visceral experience? How does it fit me? The question now is how much is being bought on the Internet and how much is being returned on the Internet? With every exciting solution, there’s a problem that comes with it.”
A problem Karan doesn’t have: wearing black. It’s her signature color — synonymous with her Collection line — she’s rarely seen without.
Of other designers she loves, she referenced Rick Owens.
“I always thought if someone would be me it would be Rick Owens,” she said. “When I saw his first clothes, I was like, ‘That’s weird, that’s like me’ — but he does me better than me. I also love Yohji Yamamoto and Issey Miyake. Also I respect what Ralph [Lauren] has done. He, Calvin and I are partners in crime. Giorgio [Armani] — just look what that man has done. And Karl [Lagerfeld].
“As a designer I appreciate what they do,” she explained. “Would I wear it personally? No.”
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)
The @cfda has shifted the dates of #NYFW, with Men’s showing on February 5 through February 7, and Women’s will directly follow, running from February 8 through 14. The preliminary schedule will be released on the CFDA’s web site in the next few days, but Mark Beckham, VP of marketing for the CFDA, revealed that @rafsimons will be back to close the men’s-specific part of the week with a show on February 7 #wwdfashion (📷: Kelly Taub)
@ferragamo is introducing a new space dedicated to the development of women’s and men’s leather good samples. The laboratory, which is created eco-friendly materials and designed to reduce the environmental impact of the manufacturing processes, will allow the company to expand its accessories offering through traditional artisanal approaches. #wwdfashion (📷: @aitorrosasphoto)
How does a “regular, degular, schmegular” girl from the Bronx, N.Y., become a Grammy-nominated artist with a certified platinum record in less than a year? Call it the @iamcardib come up. The 25-year-old has become a musical sensation, and the fashion world is taking note. “If I could describe her style I would say drama. She’s really into the dramatics,” says Cardi B’s stylist @kollincarter. See how Carter styles her bold and out there looks with the link in bio. #wwdfashion
“There is no formula. There is no guideline. I can watch Ted Talks all day, but there is no one who can advise me on exactly what it is I should be doing,” said @ronniefieg, CEO of @kith, in an interview with WWD’s @ariahughes at the brand’s new SoHo office in Manhattan. Head to WWD.com to see how Fieg went from hanging out in shoe stockrooms at 13 to building his own business. #wwdfashion (📷: @weston.wells)
@fearofgod and @maxfieldla have teamed up on a pop-up installation. The store, located in the gallery space across from Maxfield’s Melrose Ave location, is the site of the brand’s House of God pop-up in which Fear of God founder @jerrylorenzo has created a church-inspired installation. A dozen vintage church pews sit in front of an LED screen playing 90s gospel singers in an effort to re-create an environment akin to a Southern Baptist Church, Lorenzo explained. Read more about the pop-up on WWD.com #wwdfashion (📷: Jennifer Johnson)
Known for his sleek, sophisticated American glamour, Norman Norell is the subject of an upcoming exhibition at @fitnyc. “Norell: Dean of American Fashion,” which runs from February 9 through April 14, will feature approximately 100 ensembles and accessories. His best work is exemplified by the designer’s glittering “mermaid” gowns frosted with thousands of hand-sewn sequins – like the one pictured. (📷: William Helburn) #wwdfashion
For pre-fall 2018, @balmain didn’t let go of the glitz. A crystal embroidered baseball jacket priced at around $40,000 hangs in the “couture” section of the brand’s first men’s pre-collection. Sporting the words “Balmain Army” across the back, the item took around two months to make. “When it was completed, it was like Christmas, it was like, ‘It’s done, it’s exactly what I wanted,’” said Balmain’s creative director @olivier_rousteing during a tour of the collection in a Paris showroom on Monday. #wwdfashion