On Tuesday, June 30, after 31 years as the head honch-ess of her own Donna Karan International fashion house (which also includes mall fave DKNY), Karan announced that she was stepping down as its chief designer.
She began her career by first working for the brand Anne Klein in the late 1960s, post completing courses from the esteemed art school Parsons School of Design. The Queens, NY native then moved up the ranks to being Klein’s creative director until she ventured on her own to develop and push her namesake line in 1985 with “The Essentials” (seven everyday pieces). In 1988, the more casual chic little sister to Donna Karan New York was introduced, otherwise known as DKNY.
By the mid-90s, Karan was synonymous with American fashion and was often the only woman recognized as an innovator and icon in this spectrum of the industry, alongside other “boy’s club” notables Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein. She especially stood out because as much as male designers spoke on wanting to accentuate the female form, Karan intrinsically knew what women wanted and needed when it came to clothes. She embodied the era (and closets) of the Working Girl.
While she will continue to be an advisor to DKI and DKNY (those are her professional babies!), as written in the press release on Instagram, Karan will be submitting much of her time to her philanthropic program Urban Zen.
In her decades as a top fashion designer, Karan’s pantsuits and gowns were often on the minimalist side, while outre houses like Versace, Jean Paul Gaultier and Dior by John Galliano sometimes stole the fashion coverage live from the red carpet. When celebs have worn Karan, it’s usually with intentions to evoke classic femininity or a kind of independent woman status.
Still, Karan sometimes gave traditional silhouettes an afterglow of punk appendages and used frisky colors (compared to her usual neutral/nudes palette)!
Many of her gowns have graced high-profile events worldwide, but below are ten selected dresses that definitely got photographed but are underrated in just how the “Queen of Seventh Avenue” mixed dependable elegance with those aforementioned inclusions of a feminist, punk-ish jazz.
Rita Ora at the 2014 MTV VMAs
Kelly Rowland at the 2013 Academy Awards
Nina Dobrev at the 2012 Costume Institute Gala
Naya Rivera Dorsey at the 2013 SAG Awards
Camila Alves at the 2015 SAG Awards
Kerry Washington at the 2011 8th Annual Keep A Child Alive Black Ball
Jennifer Lopez at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards
Naomie Harris at the 2013 Costume Institute Gala
Lizzy Caplan at the 2014 Primetime Emmy Awards
Portia di Rossi at the 2015 GLAAD Media Awards