Karan was born Donna Ivy Faske to mother Helen “Queenie” Faske and father Gabriel “Gabby” Faske (born Faskowitz in Queens, New York. Karan’s mother had been a model and had also worked in designer Chester Weinberg’s showroom. Her father was a tailor who died when Karan was only three years old. Karan and her older sister Gail were raised by their mother. Growing up, Karan took pleasure in softball, volleyball, and basketball, cut classes in high school, and passed much of her time in the art department. She graduated from high school in 1966 and then went to the Parsons School of Design.
Prior to launching her brand, Donna Karan gained extensive experience in the fashion industry, working as a head designer for Anne Klein for 14 years, and learned the art of blending practicality, wearability and desirability. With financial backing from her husband, she launched her own brand that had interchangeable separates and was called ‘Seven Easy Pieces’. Her collection was the antithesis to the power suit of the ‘80s and targeted the executive woman who wanted to celebrate her curves. Her statement on business fashion instantly was a hit with the female careerist who wanted to combine professional dressing with sex appeal. It was very much a ‘New York look’ that translated globally, and her brand was a success not only in America but worldwide. Her business and entrepreneurial success lay in her ability to recognize a need in the market and fulfil it. Years of working in the fashion industry, at Anne Klein, had also prepared her with an understanding of how the industry worked, but most importantly, what was missing in the fashion world.
The collection “Seven Easy Pieces” launched by Donna Karan in 1985. Photo source: Donna Karan.
Key Success Factors:
Donna Karan’s design philosophy has been straightforward, no-fuss, elegant, and easy to wear pieces that solved a problem in the modern women’s wardrobe. This innate ability of understanding what customers wanted was also her key success factor that resulted in a brand that became eponymous with elegance, ease, and timeless style.