Get inspired by Donna Karan
The fashion industry is one of the world’s largest and most important industries. Different cultures have different perceptions of fashion and its creation process. Therefore, creating trends and a deeper meaning behind the clothing people wear. The beautiful thing about the diversity within the industry is that it is also art – in which everyone inevitably participates. Large icons and designers interpret differently what fashion is to them. And reflect these interpretations in their successful clothing and lifestyle brands. So, what is fashion to an icon like Donna Karan?
Donna Karan has always had fashion in her blood. Her mother was a fashion model and her stepfather a suit designer. When she went to Parson’s School of Design at 20 years old, she secured the job as an assistant to work for the designer Anne Klein. After successfully working for the designer, Karan ventured out on her own to create her brand Donna Karan New York. In her Fashinnovation talk, Karan states that fashion is not merely about clothing, but about one’s life.
She learns from being in close contact with her customers, asking them their opinion on clothing and what could possibly be improved in her designs and their wearability. The designer is about accentuating the positive and hiding the negative – enabling her customers to find confidence in her designs. Her infamous day-to-night outfits found their beginnings in her first brand. Let’s look back at where it all started.
She launched her first women’s wear collection in 1985 – with the mission to design modern clothes for modern people. The collection launched with seven pieces. It was a body suit, a skirt, a blazer dedicated to her father, a cashmere sweater, a leather jacket, a white t-shirt and a dress. With the emergence of women in business, her aim was to dress women as women, rather than seeing them dress similar to the men in the industry. She accentuated the sensuality and tailored clothes to not only be suitable for the office but also to seamlessly transition into night looks.
Despite her not wearing perfumes, Karan launched her first fragrance in 1992. Her husband created it to generate more revenue to take the brand to a global level. She continued to design iconic clothing pieces until 2015 when she stepped down from the brand to focus on her lifestyle brand Urban Zen, which she launched in 2007.
Urban Zen is a lifestyle brand that Karan founded to connect the dots. In her interview, she states how she believes the whole world consists of dots that merely need to be connected. Her aim was to create an experience and create “calm in the chaos of life”, by merging style and awareness. After being introduced to Haiti following the earthquake and seeing an opportunity to aid this community in achieving their long-term needs, such as education, health care and the need for art, she created Urban Zen and has turned it into her passion project ever since.
Urban Zen creates jobs in Haiti and established programs, such as the Integrative Therapy program, further promote wellness and integrative medicine, focusing on the intrinsic wellness of human beings. Urban Zen opened physical locations in New York, as Karan believes in the importance of creating an experience for her consumers, which heavily influences her to take on physical retail and its importance.
With the decline of physical retail and the E-Commerce sector growing tremendously, many physical retailers fear the future. During her interview with Fashinnovation, Karan made it clear that she does not, but rather believes in the importance of experience in physical retail. The feel and touch experience of the clothing is inevitable to encourage customers to buy incentives. It is what Karan has learned to capitalize on. The customer and their needs come first, as she believes that collectively, stores and retailers can create experiences to continue to sell their clothing.
Consumers not only need to be dressed but also addressed, which refers to the communication and personalization throughout their buying process, which is achieved by story-telling and unique experiences. Through creating awareness of the issue of a decline in physical retail sales, but also realizing the opportunities to capitalize on experiences, Karan remains confident in herself and her brands, encouraging other retailers to do the same.
Donna Karan has shown that a large part of fashion is the creative process behind it. Her talent for finding a problem for every solution launched her incredibly successful brands. Meanwhile, her philanthropist views have helped many communities and people. Donna’s retail presence creates experiences for her consumers. She not only creates iconic designs but values their opinion throughout the entire creation process.
Her devotion to the industry drives her success, with Karan realizing the importance of conscious consumption ahead of its time. “I don’t want to be in charge of, I want to be an inspiration for” were the last words of her Interview, which once again reflect not only her personal style but her way of being.
Donna Karan is a New York City Fashion Icon and Philanthropist, with her largely successful brands Urban Zen and DKNY. After turning Donna Karan New York into the success that it is today, she put her main focus on her Urban Zen Foundation, which dedicates to three initiatives. To preserve culture (past), to bring mind, body, and spirit to healthcare (present) and to educate the people (future). Her passion and knowledge lead her to be a highly inspiring woman with the mission to do good in the world.
Bridget Foley was Executive Editor at WWD, with her column, Bridget Foley’s Diary. She is a fashion journalist and critic. She reports on issues within the scope of fashion, ranging from luxury to mass production, covering the New York, Milan and Paris fashion week in detail.
Bridget Foley is a fashion journalist and critic. Until recently, she was Executive Editor at WWD, home to her column, Bridget Foley’s Diary. She reports on issues across the scope of fashion, from luxury to mass, including in-depth coverage of the NY, Milan and Paris Fashion Weeks.
Fashion icon and humanitarian Donna Karan founded Urban Zen in 2007. The foundation is dedicated to three initiatives: preservation of culture (past), and bringing mind, body and spirit to healthcare (present) and education (future.)
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