Twenty-five years ago there were no millions, no empire, no Urban Zen (beyond a state of mind), no gorgeous grandchildren to make a charming runway show all the more so. But there was an idea, one fomented during a young woman’s apprenticeship with Anne Klein and subsequent creative partnership with Louis Dell’Olio, and crystallized as she thought about her own wardrobe needs and those of the women she knew and admired. And there was New York. Or, as Donna Karan wrote in her program notes, “We started with a city, a bodysuit, a pair of tights and the power of a woman.”


A quarter century later, Karan has traveled the globe, embraced spiritualism and taken up humanitarian causes, all influencing her fashion work significantly. Yet while these forces have at times made for fascinating and complicated digressions, ultimately they have enhanced, rather than stolen from, that original dedication to addressing the concrete wardrobe needs of the urban woman. Does the formula still work? Just take a look at Demi Moore, Brooke Shields or any other of the multigenerational lineup of fans, friends and employees who were working the clothes at the designer’s show on Monday. Sprung from a formula, yes, but they’re clothes that a woman can make her own.


Despite a few forays into vibrant color, Karan called her fall collection “Forever Black,” but it could have been “Forever Chic.” She worked the romantic end of her range in sculptural, rounded shapes, whether in a dress with a stretch torso and tiered skirt, another with a gently belled skirt, or the flourish of ample collars, which skewed either poetic or Pierrot. And in a strong coat season, Karan’s were standouts, such as a zip-up hourglass tweed, and a remarkable number in shearling lace. Throughout, Karan played with textures, layering matte against shine, or open knits over sleek wool stretch.


Evening was sedate in a way, the embroideries and dégradés Karan loves giving way to less fussy fabrics that put the emphasis squarely on cut — and on the body. But then, that’s where it all began. And the approach couldn’t feel more modern or more right for now. 


Congratulations, Donna. Here’s to the next 25.

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