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Donna Karan

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.

In 1992, inspired by the desire to dress her husband, a menswear line was launched. Since then, Donna Karan International has continued to diversify and expand to cover every age and lifestyle, including a children’s range, eyewear, fragrances and home furnishings. She has been honoured with an unprecedented seven CFDA awards, including 2004’s Lifetime Achievement Award to coincide with her 20th anniversary. The company became a publicly-traded enterprise in 1996 and was acquired by French luxury conglomerate LVMH in 2001 for a reported 643 million US$. Karan remains the chief designer.

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