Donna Karan, quite simply, gets modern women. After all, she’s balanced motherhood and marriage with having her name on the head honcho’s office door for 20 years, all the while staying true to her singular creative vision. Of course, she knows what women want and need to get them through the day stylishly without looking like a victim, without compromising chic for comfort.
“I see my customer as I see myself — a woman who doesn’t have time to shop, a mother, a traveler, perhaps a company owner,” she told WWD in 1984, while still at Anne Klein. “I will design only clothes and accessories that I myself would wear.” And since breaking out on her own a year later, she’s stuck to that philosophy.
Karan made cashmere her staple — grand swathes of it, wrapped or flung easily over a shoulder, in a minimal palette of neutrals and blacks to reflect her introspective, spiritual self. She injected an urbane chic into sporty clothes where others fell prey to unrealistic, trendy bells and whistles. Yet, too, she worked glamour — always in a cosmopolitan mood of long, sensual gowns. What started as the famous “seven easy pieces” has blossomed into a lifestyle look, a wardrobe for the modern woman, whether she’s storming down Fifth Avenue, picking up the kids or swinging off to yoga class.
Here, highlights from the first 20 years of Donna Karan.
— Nandini D’Souza