The Queen of Seventh Avenue and the creator of capsule wardrobes, Donna Karan built her easy, luxurious and womanly design sensibility into a global presence and a lifestyle brand. Karan also launched diffusion line DKNY in 1989. The youth-driven diffusion line has proved exceptionally popular, and is one of the strongest diffusion line brands in fashion.
Karan began her career as an assistant designer to Anne Klein in the late 1960s, where she was eventually promoted to associate designer in 1971. As Klein's assistant, Karan was a participant in The Battle of Versailles Fashion Show on November 28, 1973.
When Anne Klein died in 1974, Takihyo Corporation of Japan became the new owner and Karan, together with her former classmate and friend Louis Dell'Ollio, became head designer of the house. In 1984, Karan left Anne Klein and, together with her then husband Stephan Weiss and the Takihyo Corporation, started her own business "to design modern clothes for modern people." She showed her first women's clothing collection in 1985. Karan became well known for her Essentials line, initially offering seven pieces that could be mixed and matched to create a fully integrated wardrobe. The Essentials line is credited as creating the concept of a capsule wardrobe.
Donna Karan has grown to be a full lifestyle brand for men and women. In addition to apparel, it includes handbags, accessories, lingerie, eyewear, bedding and tableware, beauty products and fragrances.
In 1989, Karan, by then nicknamed "The Queen Of Seventh Avenue" extended her brand by creating diffusion line DKNY. Two years later, she created DKNY Jeans, a denim collection. DKNY for men was launched in 1992 and, a year after, the Signature line for men was launched. In the Spring/Summer 2014 New York season, DKNY celebrated its 25th birthday. The anniversary collection was the line’s "greatest hits" modernised for 2014.
Karan left the chief executive position in 1997, but continued as chairwoman and designer for the Donna Karan and DKNY lines. LVMH acquired the company in 2001 and has overseen its globalisation and its successful entrance into new markets.
In the summer of 2015, Karan left Donna Karan International, after which LVMH closed the Donna Karan house and sold off the company, including the still-in-operation DKNY, to mega-licenser G-III for $650 million. Karan told BoF in 2017 that the sale had takn her by surprise, but that she had later been to see the new DKNY (exclusive to Macy's) and had been impressed by the quality.
Karan now focuses her time and energy on Urban Zen, her multi-pronged, socially conscious brand and foundation launched independently of LVMH in 2006.