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Donna Karan: In her own words

The Donna Karan Interview

Over the span of 29 years, New York fashion designer Donna Karan has moved from wardrobing the outer woman to dressing the inner woman.  That’s in part thanks to her passion for the concept of wellness – integrating traditional medicine with yoga, breathing and reiki.  The death of Anne Klein, her second husband Stephen Weiss and most recently her best friend found her searching for a way to deal with the overwhelming grief. Helping others allowed Donna to confront her own personal pain.  Remarkably, as she’s focused on the inner self, her fashion designing has hit new heights.  Dave Lackie sat down with Donna to discuss design, fragrance and how fabrics speaks to her.

Donna Karan


I dislike social media and tweeting.  Privacy is important.  I think it is one thing to do your job, but also respect one’s privacy. I think tabloids are unacceptable. If I could stop anything it would be tabloids. A lot of my friends are actors and actresses. Give them downtime. We get so much inspiration from them. Isn’t that enough?

My favourite music on my iPod is bells and chimes.  Anything that calms me.

DKNY F12 016Carrie Donovan from the New York Times was the most interesting fashion journalist to interview me over the past 25 years. She really mothered and cared for me.

Most women today want a system of dressing. We don’t have time to worry about what to wear.  And we like a little breathing room around the hip. Many of us aren’t sticks.

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Every woman should own a pair of black bias cut pants. They will instantly make you look and feel slimmer. I guarantee it.  It’s a trick designers use.

I start every day with yoga.  Yoga is being present in your body.

Fabric speaks to me.  When I start to design, a stand in front of a mirror and the fabric just talks to me.  It tells me what shape it wants to be. I can’t explain it.

I didn’t plan on being a designer.  I wanted to stay home with a baby.  I was in the hospital at the same time Anne Klein was there in the last stages of cancer. The company executives called me in the hospital and asked when I was coming back to work. They didn’t even ask if it was a boy or a girl. Anne had passed away. To this day, it is the biggest lesson I’ve learnt in my life: life and death and responsibility.

cashmere mistThe original philosophy of launching Cashmere Mist was to touch more customers. It was something everyone could wear if they liked it. I created it as an ode to my husband. It’s something we worked on together.

There’s too much fashion information today. If it was pared down to getting fashion information in season, we’d all be better off. I’m not in favour of showing consumers spring when I have to get them excited about fall.

I think women look to me to simplify their lives.  When I started with a bodysuit and wrap-and-tie skirt, retailers looked at me like I had three holes in my head.  But it was an extraordinary success.

For me, black is a palette. It allows me to go from day to evening.dkny asian

I’ve been surrounded by cancer my whole life. That’s why I’m passionate about wellness: treating the mind, body and soul of a patient.  I’ve sat in so many hospital waiting rooms over the years.  That’s why I’m raising funds and awareness of a new kind of holistic caregiving.