Fashion Week: Q&A with Donna Karan

Today’s Fashion Week Q&A guest needs no intro, but just in case you are a newcomer on the scene, Donna Karan is a key player to know. The designer behind two acclaimed labels—Donna Karan and DKNY—she has produced back to back collections of gorgeous, wearable clothes for women for over 25 years. While gearing up for her F/W 2011 runway shows in New York—both were presented this past week—she made time to answer some insider’s questions exclusively for The Zoe Report. Pore over her answers below, then indulge yourself in her latest collections. xoRZ

RZ: As a pioneer for wearable women’s fashion, your designs are all made with the modern woman in mind—what is your idea of the perfect contemporary look, day vs. night?
DK: The perfect look goes day into evening with sophistication and ease. It works for you, your body, your style and your lifestyle. For most women, I love anything simple and black that sets a foundation, which you can add and subtract and change its attitude/function as the day goes on. A simple black jersey dress. A black bodysuit with pants or a skirt. You can layer on a cardigan, jacket or coat. You can opt for flats or heels. And you can use jewelry and scarves to personalize.

RZ: Your fashion empire includes not one, but two mah-jor lines, both the Donna Karan Collection and sister label, DKNY—what influences your design process for one as opposed to the other?
DK: Collection and DKNY are the two sides of woman and her city. So the approach is very different. Collection is a more personal vision. It’s about luxury, longevity and flexibility. I want each modern piece to become a part of you and your wardrobe, so a lot of effort goes into the fit, fabric and detail. DKNY is street fashion. It’s designed to be of the moment in terms of trends and attitude. Quality is paramount, but the look is edgier, younger and more casual. It also has a broader appeal, dressing multi-generations and lifestyles, so there is something for everyone.

RZ: I am so in awe of your S/S 2011 Collection—which is full of dreamy flowy neutrals…do you have one favorite look from the collection?
DK: I’d have to say it’s the slip dress worn with one of the body-conscious crushed jackets. I love its femininity and artistic spirit. I also love how relaxed it feels on the body. A longer length has a way of putting your whole body at ease.

RZ: How do you prepare for New York Fashion Week? What is your favorite part?
DK: It’s always stressful, even at this stage of my career. You want to put out the best collection you can, and yet are relying on so many sources from all over the world, so balance and timing is a real issue. I’m also very detail driven, so I’m always adding and subtracting until the absolute last minute. My favorite moment is when I come out at the end of the show and see my daughter’s face in the front row.

RZ: Tell me something that you are coveting for spring!
DK: Honestly? Time off. I love to travel, re-energize and seek new inspiration.

RZ: Many of my TZR readers are aspiring fashion designers, editors and buyers—as someone who has left such a substantial, ongoing impression on the tough industry, what piece of advice would you give them?
DK: Work in a store. Get to know your customer. See what works, what doesn’t and why. I tell that to every student I speak to. It’s truly the most valuable training you can have in fashion. Fashion is a creative art form, but it lives in the real world and retail is the best education imaginable.

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