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Donna Karan: Staff cried over my departure

Donna Karan: Staff cried over my departure

Donna Karan's staff burst into tears when she told them she was leaving as it was such a shock.

The designer announced she is stepping down as chief designer of her company last week, which was accompanied by the news that runway shows and collections have been put on hold.

Now Donna has opened up about her decision, admitting that breaking the news to her team was one of the hardest parts.

"There were a lot of tears. I don’t think anybody expected it," she told WWD. "We looked at it very carefully. We were working on the spring collection. But we decided at this point if we were going to announce it now, doing the spring collection wouldn’t make any sense.

"From my point of view, it could have been last fall. I didn’t expect to be here for this fall."

Much as she is sad about the change, the time feels right to Donna. She is leaving to concentrate on her Urban Zen company and foundation, which aims to make changes in culture, healthcare and education, and for her it's a relief to be able to talk about the next stage in her life.

"It’s all happening. There’s the anxiety of telling people. For me, there’s a relief to it. I’ve been holding onto it," she said. "I keep on comparing it to a sudden birth or death, whether it be Anne [Klein, who Donna previously worked for] or my husband. You never know what is happening when there’s a huge, massive change in your life. My whole life is about that. This is not surprising. To me, it seems like it is what it is. Not that there’s any difference. To the outside world it might appear like that."

Donna set up her label in 1984 and in 2001 it was bought by LVMH Moët Hennessey Louis Vuitton. She was asked about working with the conglomerate, and joked that she's considered buying her company back from the very day she sold it. However, she is pleased with how respectful the firm has been and has enjoyed working with a company which champions up and coming designers so much.

Also in the interview was Caroline Brown, chief executive officer of Donna Karan International. She refused to be drawn on why collections have been put on hold, insisting things are still be worked out internally.

"Business would be super easy if there was a one-size-fits-all strategy. Companies all have to make their own decisions on how they continue with the staff following the founder. We have a lot of moving pieces in this company today. I would say our company is in a really interesting and exciting moment of evolution," she said.

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