While she was still a student at the Parsons School of Design in New York, Long Island native Donna Karan was offered a summer job assisting Anne Klein. After three years as associate designer, Karan was named as Klein’s successor and, following her mentor’s death in 1974, Karan became head of the company. After a decade at Anne Klein, where she established a reputation for practical luxury sportswear separates, typically in stretch fabrics and dark hues, Karan founded her own company in 1984 with her late husband, Stephan Weiss. A year later, her highly acclaimed Donna Karan New York Collection, based around the concept of ‘seven easy pieces’, unveiled the bodysuit that was to become her trademark.
Karan’s emphasis on simple yet sophisticated designs, including everything from wrap skirts to corseted eveningwear, captured the popular mood of ‘body consciousness’ that swept Hollywood in the ’80s. By 1989, she had expanded this philosophy to the street-smart diffusion line DKNY.