“Everything I do is a matter of heart, body and soul,” says Donna Karan, chief designer of the international company that bears her name. “For me, designing is an expression of who I am as a woman, with all the complications, feelings and emotions.”
In fact, Karan credits her feminine instincts for the success of the company she founded in 1984 with her late husband Stephan Weiss, which went on to become a publicly–traded enterprise in 1996, and then five years later, was acquired by its present owner, the French luxury conglomerate, LVMH, Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton. Says Karan, “that I’m a woman makes me want to nurture others, fulfill needs and solve problems. At the same time, the artist within me strives for beauty, both sensually and visually. So design is a constant challenge to balance comfort with luxe, the practical with the desirable.”
How Karan meets that challenge can run from the simplicity of a bodysuit (where it all began) to the artisan glamour of a limited edition hand-painted DeVoré dress. Whatever form the design takes, Karan will tell you it begins and ends with the body – its sensual expression, sense of security, and freedom of movement.
A modern system of dressing, Karan’s concept is based on Seven Easy Pieces, where a handful of interchangeable items work together to create an entire wardrobe that goes from day to evening, weekday to weekend, season to season. “I’m designing for an international man and woman. A creative person who never knows where a day is going to take them,” says Karan. “That’s why New York is on the label. It sets the pace, the attitude.”
Speaking in a multi-cultural language of fashion, Karan is inspired by the life and innate style of the artist. Quintessential hallmarks include black cashmere, leather, stretch and molded fabrics, often exclusively developed by Karan, as well as silhouettes that wrap and sculpt the body.
For Karan, it’s never been just about clothes; it’s about lifestyles. She sees the entire picture from head-to-toe, from function to aesthetic. Handbags and shoes are designed right alongside the clothes. “How do I dress the leg?” inspired Donna Karan Hosiery. “The right bra?” Donna Karan Intimates. “The perfect glasses?” Donna Karan Eyewear. The list goes on to include belts, accessories and, as Karan puts it, “everything you need to pull yourself together.”