ML - Boston Common

2013 - Issue 4 - Fall

Boston Common - Niche Media - A side of Boston that's anything but common.

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y ou know where I'm headed? It's so perfect: the Harvard Club. That's about as Boston as you can get, isn't it?" Donna Karan appreciates the kismet of discussing her latest Boston project while she's in transit to that bastion of Ivy League fellowship, Midtown Manhattan's Harvard Club. There she is to give a talk that early-summer afternoon about her Urban Zen Foundation philanthropic efforts for the Friends of Fashion, an organization that's almost as exclusive as the venue and dedicated to mixing with designers for the purpose of doing good works. For Karan, such an event falls squarely within her everlasting objective—to weave together fashion, philanthropy, art, and the diversity of cultures into a singular purpose: to make women feel empowered, not merely about their own style but with a heightened awareness of how each woman might impact the world. You can hear those thoughts turning in Karan's wonderfully stream-of-consciousness approach to the conversation about her newest retail venture, the opening of a shop-in-shop boutique within Saks Fifth Avenue at The Shops at Prudential Center, set to debut this month. On that early May afternoon Karan had not yet decided how the opening would be celebrated, but the one thing she did know was that she wanted her Saks debut to be more than Champagne and passed hors d'oeuvres—she wanted it to mean something. "Having a space and place in Boston makes so much sense, because it pulls all my passions together," Karan says. "It's a city that reaches so many places in mind, body, and spirit—the level of education, the incredible things being done in health care, which is so important to my heart. If I could do anything in Boston, my dream would be to bring together a seminar of like-minded people to talk about integrated health care and what we can do to fix the fact that there is so little care in health care these days." When Karan sets her mind on something, it happens. You need only to examine her track record: This is the woman who founded a label at the age of 36 and built it into a multilayered global empire that today includes her Donna Karan New York signature collection, her lower-priced and wildly popular DKNY line, and Urban Zen, the collection of "seasonless clothes" that are not only inspired by her love of yoga, but which also raises awareness and funds to support integrated therapy and health care programs around the world. The signature collection will be showcased in the Saks shop-in-shop, which will open with Karan's fall line, a luxe mix defined by her passions. An ode to her innovative 1985 collection, in which Karan introduced the "seven easy pieces" she believed essential to every woman's wardrobe, this fall's collection updates that idea, combining exquisitely tailored pieces—a great camel coat, perfectly pleated trousers—with Karan's sensuous side, seen in the jersey wrap dress that celebrates a woman's curves, or the fantastic capes and cashmere wraps that envelop the wearer in a duality of comfort and luxury. "The camel coat was the signature of the first collection I ever did," Karan says. "Along with pieces like the bodysuit and the great black dress, I wanted to take the pieces that we chose as the essence and, 30 years later, offer them up with a fresh twist so they'd feel modern and relevant for today." That vision resonates with consumers and retailers alike. "Donna has an exceptional understanding of how to design timeless clothes for the modern woman," says Saks Fifth Avenue's Boston general manager, Gretchen Pace. "Her take on what pieces are significant in a woman's wardrobe are as relevant today as they were 30 years ago. She continues to be an important voice in fashion with collections that define the lifestyle of the Boston woman." Also key to the collection is that, almost three decades later, Karan remains content with her origin story, the notion of designing pieces she wanted to wear herself. Such a thought allows you to appreciate her balancing act all the more: her ability to produce pieces that appear on the runway and look divine on the 21-year-old Karlie Kloss, but seem equally suitable for the 64-yearold Karan, and every woman in between. Such a symmetry doesn't happen often in fashion, as any woman in her 40s or older might attest, yet Karan embraces it with ease and enthusiasm. She spends a lot of time thinking about the details, she says, such as beautiful draping, the ideal length of a skirt for any woman—every woman—and if a little sexy bareness is desired, why not the shoulder? "I do love the shoulder; my statement is that a woman never gains weight there," she says. "This collection reflects where my head is at, where I want the industry to be, and the idea that what we really need is to feel prepared for anything and to make our lives a little easier." There was another aspect of the fall collection that Karan herself didn't realize until she was deep into it: "At a certain point I sort of said, 'Oh my god, I don't think I ever realized how attuned I was to Stephan's artwork, how integrated his work was with my work as a designer," she says. Karan often peppers her conversation with mentions of her late husband, Stephan Weiss, who divided his own passions among family, a prolific career as a sculptor, and working as CEO of his wife's business before he passed away from lung cancer in 2001. Weiss's sculptures have informed Karan's work over the years—he designed the bottles for her fragrances (with the exception of the bottle of her 2012 release, Donna Karan Woman, which was designed by Zaha Hadid— but her husband's contribution was undeniably great, as she explores in her 2012 book about him, Connecting the Dots [Assouline, $95]). "Without either of us, there wouldn't be a Donna Karan," she says. "The way he connected "Having a space and place in Boston makes so much sense, because it pulls all my passions together." —Donna Karan BOSTONCOMMON-MAGAZIN E.COM 106-111_BC_F_CoverStory_Fall13.indd 109 109 8/2/13 5:48 PM

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