The Moment: For most of the 30 years Donna Karan has commanded attention as one of New York Fashion Week’s most prominent designers, she has signed the “run of show” notes for her collections with the words, “to be continued...” But after Karan stepped down from her company last week, and LVMH announced it will suspend the collection business for the time being, it would seem that the story has come to an end. Or rather, this chapter of the story has come to an end, as no one who knows Karan expects her to drift into a leisurely retirement.
“My dream is to be on a motorcycle, on the back, and go to places that haven’t been sought out yet and work with the artisans,” Karan (pictured, below) told WWD this week in her version of an exit interview. In addition to focusing on her Urban Zen initiative, and philanthropy in Haiti, she is writing a book about her life coming out in the fall.
That could be a 10-volume set, given how much Karan has to talk about from the highlights of her spectacular career. And of course, I couldn’t say farewell to her label without a little salute of my own, so I combed through the red carpet archives this week to select a personal Top 10 list of Donna Karan’s best moments ever.
Why It’s a Wow: From her most loyal fans, women like Barbra Streisand and Susan Sarandon, to countless A-list admirers over the decades, to a sitting president (Bill Clinton wore her suits constantly), to possibly a future one, Donna Karan has touched virtually everyone with her gorgeously fluid fashion.
Remember when Karan set off a debate about cold shoulders in the early 1990s with her curious cut-out dresses? Looking back at Candice Bergen, at the 1992 Emmy Awards, it’s hard to imagine what all the fuss was about, especially when compared to today’s preferences for bare anything. Or all the talk about Dianne Wiest’s cleavage in her black taffeta ballgown at the 1995 Oscars (both pictred, below)?
There are certainly signatures to Karan’s red carpet style. Red, for instance, is one of her best statement-making colors, especially in recent years as worn by Diane Kruger, Viola Davis, Jennifer Lopez and Shailene Woodley. Karan has a way with strapless, too, but not in the old boring way of princess gowns. Even early examples, like Sarah Jessica Parker in sky blue at the 1999 Golden Globes, or Winona Ryder in a liquid-looking copper dress at the 2001 Oscars, would blow away the competition with their modernity if they appeared on a red carpet today. One of my all-time favorites was Penelope Cruz in a spiral of pleated scarlet at the Oscars in 2010, a dress that looked so architecturally complex, it could have been a collaboration with Frank Gehry (pictured, below).
While this might be the end of the road for the Donna Karan runway collections, I’m holding out for at least a few more high-impact hits on the red carpet still to come, especially since her recent resort finale show in New York closed with some incredible petal pink slip dresses. So I’ll say it if she won’t. To be continued…