"Everything I do is a matter of heart, body and soul," says Donna Karan, chief designer of the international company that bears her name. "For me, designing is an expression of who I am as a woman, with all the complications, feelings and emotions."
In fact, Karan credits her feminine instincts for the success of the company she founded in 1984 with her late husband Stephan Weiss, which went on to become a publicly-traded enterprise in 1996, and then five years later, was acquired by its present owner, the French luxury conglomerate, LVMH , Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton. Says Karan, "That I'm a woman makes me want to nurture others, fulfill needs and solve problems. At the same time, the artist within me strives for beauty, both sensually and visually. So design is a constant challenge to balance comfort with luxe, the practical with the desirable."
Throughout her long career, Karan's peers have acknowledged her achievements with numerous accolades. The Council of Fashion De signers of America has saluted her six times. In 2003, Karan was the first American designer to receive Fashion Group International's "Superstar Award." A year later, Karan's Alma Mater, Parson's, gave her an honorary doctorate to commemorate her contribution to the school and fashion industry, and in 2007, Glamour magazine named Karan one of their Women of the Year. Using her company's visibility and resources for social causes is a heartfelt priority. A member of CFDA's board of directors, Karan conceived and spearheaded its Seventh on Sale benefits to raise funds for AIDS awareness and education. Karan co-chairs the annual New York "Kids for Kids" events for the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation, as she has since its 1993 inception, as well as underwrites "Super Saturday," an annual designer flea market/barbeque founded with the late Liz Tilberis in 1998 to benefit the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. To facilitate her many on-going philanthropic involvements, in 1999, Karan and Weiss established the Karan Weiss Foundation.
Karan's Urban Zen Initiative, founded in 2007, is the culmination of Karan's philanthropic efforts, which was founded to create a working structure for advancing wellness, preserving culture and empowering children.
"I have spent decades dressing people. Now I want to address them. I invite you to join me in co-creating that bridge to the humane health care system we all want. There's no doubt that at moments of crisis and vulnerability, conventional medicine is critical in treating many diseases, but our science does not embrace the spirit of wholeness essential to authentic caring for patients and their families. Every one of us needs and deserves true caring at those times. Through sitting at Stephan's bedside and those of far too many friends, I discovered that even a few simple acts of healing can soften and transform a painful experience into one of comfort and hope. Just being present to listen and to share concerns is so powerful; there is so much more we can do and must do for people facing illness." --- DONNA KARAN