Donna Karan has touched down in London. i-D online caught up with the legend for a one-to-one on her new boutique in Harvey Nichols, her new book, and how to connect the dots.
Tuesday evening, the incomparable Donna Karan graced Harvey Nichols not only with the launch of a new boutique on the first floor of the store, but with an interactive trunk show for her diehard London costumers, co-hosted by the Group Fashion Director at Harvey Nichols, Grazia’s Paula Reed. In town to host a DKNY event which benefits Hearts 4 Haiti – a foundation the designer is closely involved in – Donna is also bringing her new book Connecting The Dots to the British shores. Showcasing the artwork of her late husband Stephan Weiss, the book is a manifesto of Weiss’ life philosophy, which Donna is wholeheartedly embracing. i-D online tracked down the designer in Harvey Nichols for an update on the Donna Karan empire.
Welcome to London. Thank you, darling.
Do you like London? I love London.
When was the first time you came here? Oh, God. It was definitely before you were born. In fact, I don’t even think you were a thought in your mother’s womb at that point. Many, many years ago! More than I can remember.
What do you remember? Well, to me London was the flea markets. I love flea markets. And when I walked down King’s Road in the 60s, everybody was walking with beads in their lips and stones in their ears, all punked out. That was the London that I knew.
And how about now? Totally changed. Totally. For me, it’s a little too much like New York.
Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Well, I’d like to see less globalisation. I think the reason I called it DKNY, was New York. And it was a symbol of the fact that when I came to London, I wanted it to feel like London. I didn’t want to walk down Madison Avenue, Bond Street, Faubourg Saint-Honoré and they’re all the same. Where is the individuality and where is the uniqueness. That, we’re losing, I think.
Who brought your labels to London? Christina Ong was the one who brought me to London and built both of our stores, the Donna Karan and the DKNY stores, before we had New York. So we really launched ourselves in London more than New York. From a brand point of view, London really has a lot of history, and from a personal point of view it touches my heart.
Why did you decide to do a trunk show tonight? Paula was here and Patti [Patti Cohen, Donna’s publicist] said, ‘Will you come?’ And I said, ‘I love Paula!’ So it’s celebrating my time with Paula. I’ve known her for so many years. She’s come to the shows for years and years, and she’s the kind of woman that I really relate to as a person.
We’ve been thinking a lot about wisdom at i-D, what’s your favourite piece of wisdom? Connecting The Dots. It’s about how we’re all connected. It’s sitting right here – it’s launching my husband’s new book. He was a sculptor and an artist, and I’ve just launched his show in New York too. It’s really a launch of where I do urban zen, which is his studio. It’s about connecting the dots: family, friends… Connecting it in the spirit world, which is the mind, the body and the spirit. Connecting it from everything that I did and who I am today. You know, he was talking about this philosophy and I had no idea what he was talking about until now. Where I am in my life now, I realise we’re all connected and how important it is.
How do you experience it? Just the mere fact that I do so much work in Haiti with the Haitian artists. There’s this tragedy that’s happened there and all of a sudden, here I am in New York City and we’ve got the same problem. When I was down in Haiti, the hurricane hit and I went back to New York and brought the hurricane. I couldn’t believe it. So now, the same situation that’s in Haiti is in New York City, you know. I think about how we’re connected on every level. There is no religion, but it’s a spiritual level that we have to rise to right now – of the mind, the body and the spirit, whether it’s in health care, in education, in culture. And that really is the launch of why I do urban zen. So come see my husband’s show.
I will. It’s all his artwork, and I never showed his artwork so I’m really excited about it. My husband passed away eleven years ago, and it took me eleven years to put this book together. He was my partner in business and my partner in life. It tells our whole life story and the legacy of what I do.
The Donna Karan boutique is now open at Harvey Nichols.
Text: Anders Christian Madsen