By  on May 15, 2007

TEL AVIV — Donna Karan walked through the creative end-of-year projects of the third-year students at Israel's Shenkar College of Engineering and Design, and liked what she saw.

"You've got to have fun as a student, because, God knows, it's different out there," she said, taking her time to stroke fabrics, examine portfolios and consider the accessories and ensembles designed by the students. "But the one question you have to ask in design is, can it work in retail?"

The fashion icon was on hand to receive Shenkar's prestigious title of Honorary Fellow during the annual Board of Governors meeting last week.

"I think we're sitting in a vortex here in Israel, where both the political and the creative come together," said Karan at the gala event Thursday night in her honor. "We can create and make a difference in this world and it shall come from this place and this place only. And if it can only happen here, then I will feel that I will have done something really important in life. If I can inspire those to be involved with their creativity, their passion and their knowledge, they can make a difference in this world."

Karan spent most of the day at Shenkar, first reviewing student projects, then holding a master class with the senior design class. Throughout the day, she talked to students about their embellished, abstract designs; the "relationship between fabrics and design," and their tendencies to insinuate their heritages — whether Ethiopian, Russian or Israeli — into their designs.

"I saw a lot of things that I'm planning on taking back," she told the students. There's a lot of jeans, a lot of relaxed clothing, things coming from your experiences in the army. When authenticity and creativity are combined, magic starts to happen."

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