Donna Karan

5 Mins With Donna Karan Image Credited by Ruven AfanadorStyleNest take five minutes with mum, grandmother and internationally renowned designer, Donna Karan.

From fashions to fragrances, Donna Karan has remained an iconic and inspirational figure to woman today.  Philanthropist, designer and New York fashion figure talks to StyleNest and tells us what its like to be a working mum and shares her secret style tips. With a wealth of experience under her belt and collections for both children and adults with accessories and shoes, we can safely say that Donna Karan has conquered the fashion world. 

You empower women through your clothing, fragrance and accessories in many different ways. What inspired you to inspire women?

I opened my company to design clothes for my friends and I and quickly discovered I have a lot of friends. No matter where you live, what country or city, women have so much in common. I love the dialogue, and am very inspired to make women feel good about themselves and their clothes. We all have parts of our bodies we like and parts we don’t like, and we all look at our closets and feel we have nothing to wear. The problem-solver in me relates to that and wants to help.

The launch of DKNY was inspired by the birth of your daughter; when you design do you take inspiration from your personal life?                                             

You can’t help but be personal when you design – especially when you’re a woman. As our company has grown, however, I recognize that it’s so much bigger than my needs. I’ve come to enjoy the challenge of designing for many body types and lifestyles.

What inspires you creatively?

Everything inspires me. My needs as a woman. Living in New York City. My passion for nature. My love of traveling and exploring new cultures. My obsession with yoga. My love of the arts. You only need to keep your mind, body and spirit open, and you’ll find inspiration everywhere.

When you were working at Anne Klein, did you ever envisage yourself being anywhere near where you are today?

None of us know what’s in store. I believe in fate, that some things are meant to be, and you’re sent teachers along the way to get you there. The important thing is to be open to it.

Style and fashion is obviously in your blood, did your upbringing influence you to become a designer?

My parents influenced me enormously. My father was a tailor which is where I get my appreciation of precise measurement and fit. My mother was a showroom model and was passionate about clothes. Fashion was always at the dinner table. It’s what I knew.

Your philanthropic efforts are extensive, what advice would you give women today who want to make a difference but don’t know where to start? There are so many causes and so much one can do to help.

Tap into your passion. Get involved with a cause that you care most about. It could be something at your child’s school or something else on the community level. Connect and collaborate with like-minded people. That’s how you raise awareness and inspire change.

Can you give StyeNest any inside news on any current or future projects you might be working on? 

I have a million ideas floating in my head. It’s what I haven’t done that excites me most. All I can say is stay tuned.

New York plays a big inspiration to your collections. What do you love most about the city?

Everything about New York excites me – its energy, colors, textures, lights. I love the diversity of people, its melting pot of cultures and how it attracts the leaders of every industry. There’s a buzz about New York that gets under your skin. It’s constantly changing and very much alive. And of course I love Central Park and the amazing skyline that forever takes my breath away.

You are a working mum of three with seven grandchildren. You certainly have your hands full. What do you do for some well deserved “me time”?

I seek the calm in the chaos. I practice yoga and meditation every day. I also love to spend as much time in nature as possible, even if it’s a morning walk through Central Park. You need to center and ground yourself however busy your day.

Women often lose their confidence and sense of self after having children, what advice would you give to women to help them get their style back after giving birth?

As hard as it is to do, you really have to take time for yourself. You have to refuel so you have something to give.

Your designs are always sophisticated, feminine and flattering to wear. What advice would you give to working mums who don’t know where to start with their summer wardrobe? 

Think simple.  Start with an item that makes you feel good and build from there. It’s really about how you feel in clothes that matter most.

Family is obviously a big part of your life. Obviously your role as a mum never stops, but how have you balanced being a working mum over the years? 

I haven’t. Honestly, it’s hard to balance work and home life. I think we all struggle with wanting to be with our children while we’re building careers. You also want to be a good wife as well as take time for yourself. There’s never enough time to do everything well. That’s the reality, which is why you have to be kind to yourself and accept that you can’t be in two places at once.

You always look so chic and elegant. We can’t imagine you ever having a scruffy day. What is your ultimate wardrobe staple?

For me, it’s all about flexibility. I start my day in a bodysuit at yoga and add and subtract layers as the day and evening unfolds.

Can you clue our readers on any style tips and future trends?

Know your style and your body. Wear what works for you and your lifestyle, not someone else’s. There’s nothing more important than feeling good. It’s not about fashion or trends. It’s about knowing yourself and accentuating the positive and deleting the negative.

What fashion spots have you made this season that your wardrobe won’t be without?

I’m feeling very strongly about tailoring. After so many seasons of dresses, I love a menswear-inspired suit – strong shoulders, yet cut for a woman’s body.

What is your failsafe outfit for a casual look and a cocktail party?

A black jersey dress. I add heels for evening. When I’m very casual, I’ll wear a jersey T-shirt and cargo pants.

Are there any British designers you really love? Whether established or new to the fashion scene?

I adored and greatly admired Alexander McQueen. His creativity and imagination, as well as his tailoring skills were second to none.

What do you think is true style?

A sense of self. Being true to your vision of who you are and how you present yourself to the world.

You look unbelievable. Please tell us your beauty secrets? Products you can’t live without?

Thank you. I take a holistic approach because I really believe beauty comes from within. The healthier and happier you are, the more you will naturally glow. Product-wise, I love our fragrances and body lotions – especially Cashmere Mist Body Lotion, as well as our Essences. I also love Kahina Giving Beauty, which is a skin care line made with certified organic argan oil sourced from women’s cooperatives in Morocco.

Any top tips for our readers on how to look fabulous in just five minutes?

Keep it simple and reach for something black.

When you are not busy working, what do you enjoy doing with the family?

We love spending time together at the beach. My daughter’s home is right next door to mine in Easthampton, so I get to see my grandchildren all summer long. When we can put some time together, we’ll go to my home in Parrot Cay.

You have worked with so many iconic people and brands. Any particular favourite memories or faces?

I love collaborating with creative people, and I’ve been fortunate to call so many friends. The list is too long and I don’t want to leave anyone out.

You are an inspirational business mum, what advice would you give to our readers who want to set up their own business?

Believe in your product and don’t take no for an answer.

What’s your motto?

Every problem has a creative solution.

 For DKNY fragrances, see DKNY Golden Delicious.

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