NEW YORK – Patti Cohen has left Donna Karan International. For more than 30 years, Cohen has been Karan’s chief of marketing and p.r., but also calm cohort-sidekick-alter ego to Karan’s exuberant fast-talking, multitasking designer-artiste-philanthropist.
“Patti has been by my side for over 30 years, from when I first met her in Fire Island on a tennis court,” Karan said. “I recruited her to work at Anne Klein II, and she came with me to Donna Karan New York. She is the red-headed ‘me,’ and has been a guiding force in my life personally and professionally. Patti’s leaving the company saddens me greatly and I will miss her more than words can say. I’m there to love and support her in any way possible. Our story is far from over. She will always be my best friend, and we will always be there for one another.”
In late April, Caroline Brown, chief executive officer of DKI, appointed Hector Muelas, formerly of Apple, as the company’s chief image officer. At the time, Brown told WWD that Cohen’s role would become executive vice president of global public relations and communications. She had been executive vice president of global marketing and communications.
Reached Friday, Brown said the decision to leave was Cohen’s alone. “I think I speak for the whole company when I say that we’re all extremely grateful for the extraordinary work that she did,” Brown said. “Patti was at Donna’s side for 30 years in this company. We credit her as a major builder alongside Donna for what this business has become.”
After that fateful introduction over tennis, Karan recruited Cohen to work on a freelance basis at Anne Klein, and to join her when she launched her signature brand for fall 1985. Cohen thus became DKI’s first employee, eventually taking on responsibility for marketing and advertising as well as public relations. After 15 years, she left the company in 1999 but returned just four months later when an exhaustive search for her successor proved unsuccessful. “We realized there is only one Patti,” Karan said at the time. “The reality is, Patti just needed a vacation.”
It’s unlikely Cohen will return to DKI for a third act. “It’s been an amazing ride,” she said Friday. “Now I’m on to the next chapter of my life.”