Donna Karan reflects on career highlights
Donna Karan never thought she was a style trailblazer.
The New York-based designer was presented with the Founder's Award at the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA) Awards held at the Hammerstein Ballroom in New York on Monday night (06Jun16), recognising her contribution to the industry. The prize was presented to Karan by her friend and fellow designer Calvin Klein.
Karan worked for Anne Klein before launching her eponymous label in 1984, where she sought to design modern clothes and became known for her Essentials line, initially offering seven pieces that could be mixed and matched like jersey dresses and opaque Lycra tights. Karan has now stepped away from her namesake brands, Donna Karan and DKNY, to focus on her philanthropy-based lifestyle-cum-fashion collection Urban Zen. Prior to receiving the award, the 67-year-old spoke with Vogue about her five decades in the business, but remains unsure to whether she can be considered a trailblazer.
"I didn’t think I was. I was honest with myself. I never thought about what other people were doing, because I was, personally, doing it for me," she told Vogue.com. "At Anne Klein, I was doing it for the large audience she had created. That’s why I wanted to do something I wanted - because I only like seven easy pieces!"
Of her favourite designs, Karan pointed to her classic body suit design, which she said was inspired by her interest in yoga. She says the design remains versatile and can be easily accessorised with a jersey wrap and tied for a chic look.
Karan also referred to her cutout shoulder dress - nicknamed the Cold Shoulder Dress in the press, which might be the only thing Liza Minnelli and Hillary Clinton have in common. "Liza was the one who found it in my closet - it was a discard," says Karan, adding that Liza first wore it in 1992. Nearly a year later, in 1993, Hillary bought the dress to wear to her first state dinner as First Lady.
"When Hillary Clinton wore it to the first White House state dinner, I didn’t know that she had it," remembered Karan. "That was pretty amazing." Clinton seemed to agree, with her press secretary at the time issuing a statement from the former First Lady: "I love the way it feels. And when you feel good, you look good."