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Where They Were Then

Where They Were Then: Donna Karan

Where They Were Then BY callia hargrove 03/22/2013




With multiple major labels and nearly a half-century of fashion-world experience, it would be an understatement to call Donna Karan a design powerhouse. This college dropout turned “Queen of Seventh Ave” has made a career of paying tribute to her city and keeping basics far from boring. Do a deep dive into her rise. 


1948 – Donna Ivy Faske is born on October 2nd in Queens, New York. Fashion is in her blood: Her mom Gaby is a model-slash-stylist, and her dad works for design legend Chester Weinberg.


1951 – Upon her mom’s remarriage to Harold Flaxman, a garmento, the family relocates to Long Island. Childhood aspiration: working at Women’s Wear Daily, as an illustrator.


1962 – Donna lies about her age to score a job at hometown hotspot, Sherry’s clothing store. After graduating early from Hewlett High, she heads to Parsons at age 17.


1966 – Parsons extra-curriculars: working for designer Chuck Howard and sketching for Liz Claiborne.


1967 – Donna joins Anne Klein as an intern for the summer. Anne is so impressed that she asks her to drop out of school and come to work for her full-time. Donna accepts…only to be fired a few months later for being too young and irresponsible.


1968 – Give up? Never. Donna picks up the pieces and heads to work with designer Patti Cappalli for 18 months while she gets her shit together. A heart-to-heart with Anne gets Donna her job back.


1973 – After tying the knot, Donna goes from Faske to Karan, c/o first husband Mark.


1974 – While pregnant, Donna’s doctor puts her on bed rest, and she wraps up the whole Anne Klein fall 1974 collection from home. Her daughter Gaby is born two days before Anne dies. Donna is chosen as Anne’s successor and brings on her BFF Louis Dell’Olio as her right-hand man.


1977 – Together Donna and Louis they win a Coty American Fashion Critics‘ Award—a damn big deal.


1982 – The early eighties bring Anne Klein II—a diffusion line—and a second husband, Stephan Weiss, a sculptor she meets on a blind date.


1984 – Coty Hall of Fame. BAM.


1985 – Wanting to branch out on her own, Donna launches Donna Karan New York. She becomes known for her bodysuits—it’s the mid-eighties, guys—and her essentials line: seven basics that can be mixed and matched to create a full wardrobe. The industry takes note and the hit-maker wins her first CFDA award—and takes home nods in 1986 and 1987, too.


1989 – Hello, DKNY. Inspired by Gaby, now 15, and her city, Donna creates the less expensive, downtown-chic line.


1990 – Reworking an American classic, DKNY heads into jean territory. Menswear and kids follow two years later.


1992 – Donna teams up with Estée Lauder to develop her first fragrance. She tells the developers to model the scent after Casablanca lilies, red suede…and the back of her husband’s neck. The same year, both Liza Minnelli and Candice Bergen (Murphy Brown!) don her “cold shoulder” dress during awards season. Cut-outs!


1993 – President Clinton chooses a Donna Karan power suit for his inauguration—and somehow ends up being twinsies with Barbra Streisand. Donna becomes the first woman to win the CFDA for menswear.


1998 – Vogue’s 100-year anni issue features Iman on the cover wearing head-to-toe Donna Karan.


2001 – After scoring a spot on the Fashion Walk of Fame, Donna sees a huge opportunity and sells both Donna Karan New York and DKNY to LVMH for a cool 600 mil. 


2010 – Donna, a yoga obsessive and raw foodist for almost 10 years, starts up the Urban Zen Initiative to provide holistic healthcare to the less fortunate.   


2013 – Still dominating, DKNY launches a throwback collection with Opening Ceremony, filled with remakes of nineties classics.



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