Iconic Fashion Designer Donna Karan moves on
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Published on July 7, 2015
Fashion designer Donna Karan has announced that she is leaving the company she founded, Donna Karan International (DKI). As part of this transition, she is stepping down from will no longer be the chief designer for the brand that bears her name.
She founded the fashion and apparel company more than 30 years ago, and has acted as its chief designer over this time. In 2001 she sold 90 percent of the company to LVMH, the parent company behind iconic brands such as Christian Dior and Louis Vuitton, and they later increased their ownership to 98%. While she is leaving her role as chief designer, she will be remaining as an advisor to the company. Known as a hands-on designer, she is said to often try-on clothes being designed, wanting to make certain the look and feel was representative of the brand.
While it is not that unusual for a designer to leave a brand or agency that they helped to start, it is more unusual when it continues to use the designer’s name. The Donna Karan name and brands such as DKNY will continue to operate without her day-to-day input.
Recently she has created a new lifestyle brand that includes furniture, housewares, handbags, jewelry and, of course, clothing under the Urban Zen brand. Described as a “philosophy of living” her design is now focused on a more upscale audience. She is selling her Urban Zen line through three boutiques of the same name that she is operating. They are located in New York City, Sag Harbor – near the Hamptons on Long Island, and Aspen, Colorado. A small number of independent shops are also carrying her new line, but with prices of blouses and dresses that extend above $1,000 these are not items that will be on the racks of Macy’s or even Target anytime soon.
The development of her new line of products shows that there continue to be roles for skilled designers. That a designer is willing to walk away from the safety of a stable well-established brand is also a positive sign for the economy that is facing creative professionals. It could be the right time to take an Adobe Illustrator for fashion design course and use your new skills to start your own label, or fill the recently vacated role of chief design officer at Donna Karan International.
About the author
Jennifer Smith is a user experience designer, Photoshop expert, educator and author based in Boston. She is the author of more than 20 books on design tools and processes, including Adobe Creative Cloud for Dummies, Adobe Creative Cloud Digital Classroom, and Photoshop Digital Classroom. She has been awarded a Microsoft MVP three times for her work with user experience design in creating apps for touch, desktop, and mobile devices.
Jennifer delivers UX training and UX consulting for large Fortune 100 companies, small start-ups, and independent software vendors. She has been hired by Adobe and Microsoft to deliver training workshops to their staff, and has traveled to Asia, Europe, India, the Middle East, and across the U.S. to deliver courses and assist on UX design projects. She has extensive knowledge of modern Windows UX Design, having worked closely with the Windows team to create educational material and deliver UX workshops to key partners globally on behalf of Microsoft. Jennifer works with a wide range of prototyping tools including Fireworks, Photoshop, Illustrator, Blend for Visual Studio, and Balsamiq.