After more than 30 years as the head of Donna Karan International, fashion industry icon Donna Karan is leaving her post as the brand’s head designer.
WWD first broke the news that Karan, 66, will be stepping down as she plans to spend more time expanding her philanthropic initiative, the Urban Zen Foundation. However, she’ll remain an “adviser” to DKI.
“I have arrived at a point in my life where I need to spend more time to pursue my Urban Zen commitment to its fullest potential and follow my vision of philanthropy and commerce with a focus on health care, education and preservation of cultures,” Karan told WWD in a statement. “After considering the right time to take this step for several years, I feel confident that DKI has a bright future and a strong team in place.”
She added: “Donna Karan is a part of me, past, present and future. It has been an honor to speak woman to woman about ‘Seven Easy Pieces’ that forever changed the way women dress. I want to express my gratitude and my deepest feelings to the dozens and dozens of colleagues over the years who have helped take Donna Karan New York far beyond my wildest dreams.”
Karan co-founded DKI in 1984 with her late husband Stephen Weiss. And since then she’s been responsible for some of the most memorable star style moments — on and off the carpet. One of her signatures? The show-stopping red gown. Some of Hollywood’s biggest celebs (from Jennifer Lopez to Sofia Vergara) have hit the red carpet in her creations, which pay close attention to flattering the female form.
She debuted her first collection in 1985, centered around what she called the “seven easy pieces.” Her fashion philosophy set out to show how a handful of basics (from a pair of knit trousers to a tailored jacket to cashmere sweaters and the famous wrap skirt) could create a whole wardrobe that worked from day-to-night, no matter the occasion or season. The central piece for each look: a black jersey-knit bodysuit.
“For me, the body was very important — and clothing with comfort and the fit. So thank God for stretch. I was the first person to put stretch into fabric,” Karan famously said during a 2014 panel discussion at Parsons The New School for Design.
In 1989, she launched DKNY, after her daughter Gabby continued to steal pieces from her wardrobe.
“She needed clothes and I needed jeans that I couldn’t find in the market,” Karan explained. “I put a blazer with a pair of jeans because I wanted to see what else there was to wear with jeans.”
Since its debut, DKNY has led to the launch of DKNY Jeans, DKNY Active, DKNY Underwear and DKNY Kids. Most recently, Cara Delevingne and Rita Ora have taken on modeling and ambassador roles for the brand.
Karan’s replacement as lead designer has yet to be named. What do you think of her departure? Which Donna Karan style moment is your favorite? Sound off below.