Party for Donna Karan to mark new memoir

Fashion designer Donna Karan comes out with a new book, My Journey.
Fashion designer Donna Karan comes out with a new book, My Journey. PHOTO: NEW YORK TIMES

NEW YORK • In June, fashion designer Donna Karan stepped down from her namesake company after months of tension with her corporate overlords at LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton.

They had shut down her flagship Madison Avenue store and gave interviews saying they knew "for a fact" that most consumers of her more successful DKNY line had no idea it was by Donna Karan. It is now being run by the young designers from Public School.

Karan, meanwhile, had complained in a profile in The New York Times that the bosses at LVMH, which bought her company in 2000, were giving her "the cold shoulder". So it was a little strange on Monday night to see that everyone had kissed and made up and that Mr Pierre-Yves Roussel, chairman and chief executive of LVMH Fashion Group, was hosting a party to celebrate the release of Karan's new memoir, My Journey.

At Tutto il Giorno, an Italian eatery in TriBeCa owned by Karan's daughter Gabby Karan, Mr Roussel toasted Karan, talking about her passion for creativity, her loyalty to her friends and the immense success she has had as a philanthropist.

"People are drawn to you," he said. "Your relationships are timeless."

Well, not always.

And it was even stranger that she could not seem to remember having ever complained about him or the folks who bought her company.

"Did I say that?" she asked between signing books for her friends. "I don't think I said that. I don't remember saying that."

Oh, well. There was certainly some cause to be in a good mood.

After all, lots of people had shown up. To the left was Anna Wintour, a host of the evening. To the right was Calvin Klein. Iman was nearby, reminiscing about Karan's early days in New York. Film producer Jane Rosenthal had approached Karan to say that her life should be made into a movie, perhaps starring someone like Rachel Weisz.

"I could see that," Karan said, smiling approvingly.

She was not totally oblivious to the fact that among a certain set, her exit from the company was a topic of conversation, one she had to address in the book.

And it was the hardest part of putting it together, harder even than discussing the death of her husband, Stephan Weiss, from cancer in 2001, she acknowledged.

"Writing in the past was fine," she said. "Writing in the present moment was much more difficult. How was I going to feel in a month?"

So she blew through three deadlines, talked it through with her collaborator, Kathleen Boyes, and got the last chapter done, framing the exit in her typically New Age vernacular, yet another "cycle of birth and death".

The chapter sounds remarkably like one written by a person who signed a non-disclosure statement at 2pm and went to yoga class at 3pm.

But she still got the blues last September when fashion week rolled around and she was not having her big show.

"I just thought, 'Why do I not feel crazy?'" she said.

Thankfully, she still has her Urban Zen line, a collection of clothing and housewares that works with artisans around the world on items that can be snapped up by moneyed Western consumers. And, there is the book.

Then it was time to sign some more copies.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 19, 2015, with the headline 'Party for Donna Karan to mark new memoir'. Print Edition | Subscribe