“Hello? Anna? It’s Donna Karan.”
One of fashion’s original gurus, Donna Karan, whom I met in person a few days prior to our phone conversation, calls me to resume our interview and apologize for the amount of love displayed to her by friends and family during our eventually interrupted face-to-face conversation at the launch of her new memoir, My Journey. The amount of hellos, smiles, and “of course I remember you!” did, indeed, leave me pleasantly surprised.
After the usual small talk, we get down to business. What compelled Karan to write a memoir at this point in time? What is she hoping will happen in 2016? This and more below, in a condensed version of our phone interview.
You’ve had a long, illustrious career. What compelled you to write a memoir at this moment?
Donna Karan: Before I forgot. You know, I’m at the stage of my life right now where a reflection is coming and somebody asked me [if] I would be interested in writing a book and I said, I never really thought about it but sure, why not?
Do you foresee writing more?
DK: I would love to. Oh, I’d love to.
Your good friend Barbara Streisand wrote the book’s foreword. How did that come about?
DK: Well, she had written a speech for me that was so funny [while] she was giving me an award in California and we basically [asked if we] could use the speech for the foreword. But then, of course, Barbara is Barbara and, you know, [she] went over it and really created a wonderful foreword. It’s so funny.
What do you hope is the one thing that people will take away from reading the memoir?
DK: I think what’s most important [that] people take away is that I’m just like they are. We all suffer differently, but we all go through it. Whether it’s birth and death or disease or anything like that, we’re all going to be patients at one time or another or we’re going to have loved ones at one time [and not] another. And how do we deal with it? I think that’s what’s driven me into creating Urban Zen. Where do we find the calm in the chaos of our lives today?
Although you stepped down as chief designer of Donna Karan International to focus on Urban Zen and other philanthropic efforts, I have to ask you about fashion. What excites you most about fashion in 2015?
DK: What excites me? That’s a very hard question. I think it’s a very challenging time, I feel that women are not really being addressed. I think that fashion shows are sometimes talking to themselves and I think the clothes are beautiful and wonderful and creatively really exciting, but I think it’s a very challenging time for designers. All designers. Designing four to five collections a year and shoes and accessories and this and that, I mean, it’s huge and I don’t think people realize how difficult it is to be a designer.
What do you think changed within the fashion industry since you started?
DK: I was just telling somebody that, when I started designing Donna Karan, we showed fall in May. Now, we’re showing fall in February. Now, when people see it [on the] runway, it goes immediately online so people forget about what’s in the stores [for] the season. I mean, I went on a few websites today and people are already talking holiday and it hasn’t even turned into winter yet.
It’s as if people can’t enjoy the moment. They’re just rushing to whatever is next.
DK: Right. It’s always what’s new? What’s new? What’s new? What’s new? And it just got to me and that’s why, for me, Urban Zen is [about] how you find the calm in the chaos of fashion today.
It’s kind of sad because fashion isn’t the only scenario we see this sort of behavior in. Everything in the world now seems to be about what’s new.
DK: Yup. I totally agree with you.
Well, speaking of what’s next and women… The democratic debate took place a few weeks ago and…
Yes! You once mentioned that you’d love to dress the first woman President. I was going to ask you about your political prospects for 2016 but you seem to have just answered that.
DK: I feel very strongly about Hillary. Whether I dress her or not, I support her completely […] and I think her and the family would be an amazing addition to the White House, which is needed. I think it’s time for a woman to be President because I think we need a little bit of a heart and soul in what’s going on in the world today. And I think we need somebody who has had the experience to be able to face all the issues at hand.
So, Hillary 2016?
Well, thank you so much for that, Donna!
DK: I’m so sorry about the other night, it was just complete chaos. That’s urban chaos… not Urban Zen!