To everyone out there on Dal’s blog, let me introduce you to someone we can all admire and whose life practices each of us might aspire to emulate. Her name is Donna Karan, who is one of the most influential fashion designers in America.
Donna wanted to go through my antique Indian clothing collection and talk about some ideas. She thought maybe I could help. Ha! We used up a wonderful afternoon laughing at each other.
In this photo Donna models an Indian legging that was made by a Kiowa woman in Oklahoma about 1875. It’s fringed and covered with green and yellow ocher. Donna thought that design idea might not be too popular with her Manhattan staff.
She was born in Forrest Hills, NY, in 1948, and at an early age began selling women’s clothing at a local boutique. That’s when she discovered herself. After attending several design schools she started moving up the fashion ladder. At age 35 she married Stephen Weiss, who became CEO of the Donna Karan design company. She wanted to manufacture “modern clothes for modern people” and was known for being, what her envious competitors called, “practical.” Around New York she was popularly nicknamed “The Queen of Seventh Avenue.” Donna was a success in the tough New York fashion market where next to nothing can endure.
At age 44 Donna launched her first perfume line and sold a fragrance that she said smelled like “Casablanca lilies, red suede and the back of Stephen’s neck.”
In 2001 Stephen died of lung cancer and Donna started wearing her wedding ring with the diamond turned in, she told me, “so I could hold it,” and that’s when she decided to start giving back.
She sold her publicly traded company for about $650,000,000, and gave personal belongings and vintage company design samples to benefit the Urban Zen Initiative, a charity she co-founded. A foundation she ran donated $850,000 to New York’s Beth Israel Medical Center.
Not bad for a little Jewish girl who dropped out of school at age 14 to chase a dream, doncha think?