It’s the end of a fashion era on Tuesday as Donna Karan announced she is stepping down from the fashion label she founded in 1984.
While Karan, who is 66, says she plans to spend more time on her Urban Zen collection, which combines fashion with philanthropy, and the news was not entirely unexpected, the idea of Donna Karan, the fashion label, without Donna Karan, the woman, is like Manhattan without the taxi cabs. Who is going to capture the spirit of life in New York through her fashion, as Karan so eloquently did once again at her fall runway show, with a backdrop of city lights and skyscrapers at night? Who’s going to address the modern working woman’s wardrobe with as elegant and simple a solution as her original “seven easy pieces”?
Who’s going to be the voice of women who design for women?
Over the years, I’ve sat with Karan and watched her at work, charmed by the stories and sometimes maybe a little lost in the train of thought, but always amazed at the commitment and the courage. I’ll never forget the first time seeing her disrobe in front of a roomful of assistants to try on one of her designs, but it certainly was not the last time. Karan was never ashamed. Rather, it should be obvious to anyone who has ever worn her designs, that she celebrates the body. She dressed for herself, and women loved her for it, when she put the focus on the shoulder, or the leg, or any part of her body she felt was most attractive at the time. She proudly showed her scars, both the literal ones from skiing accidents and the figurative ones from the loss of her husband and business partner, Stephan Weiss.
Since 2001, when LVMH acquired control of the company, Karan’s long-term involvement has remained an open question. According to a release this evening, she plans to remain a close advisor even after her departure, although the company won’t name a successor for now. LVMH’s focus will be on introducing a new look for DKNY, which is now being designed by Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osbourne of Public School for a September debut.