Donna Karan

Fashion designer; Humanitarian

"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."

A modern system of dressing founded in 1984, Karan's concept is based on seven easy pieces. "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."

Karan was born into fashion on Long Island,. Daughter of Gabby Faske, a tailor, and Helen, a showroom model and fashion sales rep. So it was only natural that Karan, while still in high school, designed her first collection and staged her first show.

Following her second year at Parson's School of Design, Karan was hired by Anne Klein. After three years as associate designer, Karan was named successor following Klein's death in 1974.

Ten years after Klein died, Karan was ready to go out on her own. Fall 1985 saw the first Donna Karan New York Collection and made fashion history, leading to product categories that included Shoes, Accessories, Eyewear, Hosiery, Fragrance, Intimates and Home. 1989 marked the birth of DKNY, fulfilling Karan’s quest for the perfect jeans. Product categories grew to include, Shoes, Accessories, Fragrance, Watches, Hosiery, Home, Underwear, Ties, Socks and Eyewear. DKNY grew so popular that DKNY Jeans, DKNY Active, DKNY Juniors and DKNY Kids labels spun from it.

Using her company's visibility and resources for social causes is a heartfelt priority. A member of CFDA's board of directors, Karan conceived as well as spearheaded its Seventh on Sale benefits to raise funds for AIDS awareness and education. Karan co–chairs the annual New York "Kids for Kids" events for the Elizabeth Glazer Pediatric AIDS Foundation, as well as “Super Saturday,” an event founded with the late Liz Tilberis in 1998 to benefit the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. Karan is also an active supporter of New York City’s Dia Center for the Arts.