Donna Karan Steps Down.
Jul 09 2015
I was sad to hear the news that designer Donna Karan would be stepping down as chief designer of the company she founded in 1984. I was even sadder to learn that her main line, Donna Karan New York, is being "suspended" while the lower priced DKNY will live on.
Donna Karan first entered my consciousness just as I was graduating law school in the mid-90s. Back then, she was all about sleek and sophisticated monochromatic looks that were feminine yet professional. Her clothing made you feel strong and confident even when you found yourself pleading a contested motion across from a much older, seasoned attorney with greying temples and a baritone voice. It was armour.
Unlike too many designers who create clothing for some glamorous creature that really only exists in their imaginations, Donna Karan designed with the needs of actual women leading busy, fast-paced lives. Her clothing not only looked fantastic but was also very comfortable to wear. You could pull an all nighter at the office and still look presentable well into the wee hours. The clothing invariably held up longer than you did.
While the official announcement contains the usual polite corporate speak, it had been widely rumoured that Karan's relationship with LVMH had been tense for some time. Pierre-Yves Roussel, chairman of the LVMH Fashion Group, recently declared that LVMH “knows for a fact that most people who buy DKNY did not even know it was by Donna Karan.” A rather tasteless way of suggesting that Karan was considered expendable. Viewed in this light, the decision to shutter the main Donna Karan New York line seems like the ultimate slight, a way of eclipsing Karan from the picture altogether.
LVMH may have forced her out of the company she founded and shuttered her eponymous fashion line, but they can't scrub Karan's legacy. For me, she will always stand for a designer that sought to empower women as epitomized by her 1992 "In Women We Trust" campaign shot by Peter Lindberg and depicting a woman becoming U.S. president. That for me sums up Donna Karan and always will.
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