The Full Biography of DONNA KARAN - Fashion Worldwide

Born on October 2, 1948, in Forest Hills, New York, the American fashion designer Donna Karan is one of the most influential designers in the world today. Her initial name was Donna Ivy Faske.

Donna grew up in Hewlett, Long Island and quickly immersed in the world of fashion. Her mother was a model, while her stepfather was a suit designer. By the age of 14, she had dropped out of school and begun selling clothing at a local boutique.  While in school, Karan got a prestigious summer job working for the designer Anne Klein.

Her work there made quite an impression and within 2 years she was named associate designer. By the age of 26, Karan, who was by then married to her first husband, Mark Karan, was named head designer.


Karan got into the highly respected Parsons School of Design in New York City.


After the death of Anne Klein, in 1974, Karan and Louis Dell’Olio became co-designers of the brand. Due to her work, they received many awards for their sporty, sophisticated womenswear. Takihyo Tomio Taki, a Japanese fashion financier had taken financial control of Anne Klein’s brand management and he decided to appoint Karan to fill her boss’s place.


Karan, who by then divorced her first husband, Mark, decided to make her own brand. She got the support of Stephen Weiss, her second husband (painter and sculptor) and soon left Anne Klein fashion house. During the same year, she was inducted into the Coty Hall Of Fame.


The debut of her first womenswear collection.

Photo Source: Pinterest


Karan, recognizing the need for a more affordable fashion line, launched Donna Karan New York a.k.a. DKNY. This was meant to be a womenswear line strongly influenced by her original Signature collection.


But it was her launch of DKNY, a casual line of lower-priced clothes ($90 bodysuits, $300 blazers) in 1989 that made her ideas and her designer name much more accessible to working women wanting to wear a designer name but couldn’t afford the couture prices. The philosophy was simple:

“The brand is synonymous to the energy and spirit of New York”


She developed DKNY Jeans and, after 2 years she debuted DKNY for men. From that moment on, a bunch of products have been created under the DKNY name, from childrenswear to furniture.

Photo Source: Daily Design News


1992 was the year to launch her first perfume. She directed its creators to come up with a scent that smelled “like Casablanca lilies, red suede and the back of Stephan’s neck.” That’s how they came up with “Donna Karan“, an eau de parfum presented in an alienesque flacon designed by her late sculptor/painter husband Stephen Weiss. (photo)


Photo Source: Pinterest

Soon after that, Karan developed a basic line called Essentials – a capsule collection of blazers, pants, wrap skirts, and bodysuits that sold $15 million the first year. She soon added a line of Essentials for Men.


With her reputation and identity as a world-class designer already established, Karan expanded her vision into home furnishings and a women’s body care line (moisturizers, bath soap, and shower gels). Donna Karan became a global business empire that included childrenswear, fragrances, skin-care products, hosiery, and eye wear, as well. The company had 27 free-standing Donna Karan stores, with strong followings in Europe, the Far East, and Japan.

Photo Source: Pinterest

Photo Source: Designer Childrenswear


Karan sold her publicly traded company to LVMH (Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton), a French luxury conglomerate. Reports of the sale were said to be nearly $650 million. As part of the sale, Karan agreed to stay on as the designer of the brand.

Photo Source: Pinterest


Due to her revolutionary fashion designs, over the years, Karan received numerous awards and honors. She became the first American to ever receive the Fashion Group International’s “Superstar Award.”


She received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America.

Photo Source: Pinterest


Donna Karan had 7 grandchildren and over 20 years experience in the business of fashion and not only.


Kate Moss became the face of Donna Karan brand.


In the aftermath of the earthquake in Haiti, Urban Zen launched Hope, Help & Relief Haiti in collaboration with leaders in music, fashion, film, finance and art. Karan worked with The Clinton Global Initiative to develop and support sustainable opportunities in Haiti by bringing artisan products to a global market, which led to the launch of the Haiti Artisan Project. Karan collaborated with Parsons School of Design, I 2015 to open D.O.T. (Design Organization Training), a Haitian vocational education center.

Photo Source: Urban Zen Foundation


Donna Karan announced that she would be stepping down as head of her company to focus on her lifestyle brand, Urban Zen.

Urban Zen embraces conscious consumerism, a harmony of philanthropy and commerce. It was an idea Karan cultivated through her leadership on Seventh on Sale, the CFDA AIDS benefit, and Super Saturday, to benefit Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. Urban Zen offers artisan objects of desire globally curated from Donna’s travels, signature Karan-designed apparel, accessories, art and exclusive handmade Balinese furniture.

During the same year, Karan candidly shares her personal and professional story in her 2015 autobiography, My Journey (Ballantine/Random House). Her personal life also showed steady growth and determination.

Photo Source: Amazon


In 2016, immediately following Hurricane Matthew, the Urban Zen Foundation collaborated with on the ground partners to deliver critical aid in the form of emergency kits.

Photo Source: My Good Planet


  • Donna Karan invented “the body” – one of the most practical items of clothing to come out of the 80s.
  • From the start, she was a designer’s designer, using her own closet as a testing ground and inspiration for her fashion items.
  • For her youthful DKNY line, she found the inspiration at her daughter Gabrielle (born 1975).
  • For suggestions for menswear designs, she used her husband and business partner, Stephan Weiss.

Her connections to Hollywood boosted the designer’s reputation because some of the most influent celebrities wore her designs on the red carpet, on stage, in the movies and not only: Barbra Streisand, Candace Bergen, Michael Bolton, Larry Hagman, Richard Gere, Warren Beatty, First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, President Bill Clinton (campaigned in her stylish navy wool crepe suits), Nina Dobrev, Gigi Hadid, Ashley Greene, Pixie Lott, Kerry Washington and many more.


©2017 Fashion Worldwide


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