The most important things I've learnt about life and style by New York designer Donna Karan

Six decades in fashion. An eponymous label that needs no introduction. Diffusion lines DKNY and DKNY jeans, as well as her Urban Zen Foundation (combining her love of design with philanthropy). Donna Karan single-handedly put the simplicity, ease and glamour into women's wardrobes with her signature draping - she reveals the mindset that has kept her at the top. 


What philosophy do you live by?

I have two main ones: every problem has a creative solution and accentuate the positive, delete the negative.

What has been the secret to your success?

Not thinking about success, but instead focusing on what I’m doing and how it provides answers to questions we all have, whether it’s how to dress with sophistication day into night or how to create hosiery that will tone your body and make you look sleek head to toe. Success is born of creative solutions to universal desires.

How do you view setbacks in your life?

For me, a setback is a challenge and ultimately a learning experience.

Are friends and family important to you?

Important?!? They are the only thing that matters! Time with my family is my ultimate luxury in life.

What makes you laugh?

My grandchildren.

susan sarandon

Donna Karan with Susan Sarandon backstage at her Donna Karan autumn/winter 2015 New York Fashion Week show in February

Which book has taught you a lot?

My autobiography, which I’m currently writing - reflecting back is giving me perspective about my life, past, present and future.

How do you encourage yourself to be more mindful?

I meditate and practice yoga. Anything that brings you back to the present helps you to be more mindful.

Who has been the biggest influence in your life?

There are many answers to that question. My mentor Anne Klein who made me understand how to dress and address a woman’s lifestyle through design. President Clinton and The Dalai Lama, who both did so much to inspire me to establish my Urban Zen Foundation. My friend Christina Ong who has introduced me to the world through travelling.


How do you increase your motivation?

I bring like-minded people together to attack a problem. There’s nothing more inspiring than to connect, collaborate and create as a group.

And how do you maximise your productivity?

I try to stick to my calendar. It’s very easy for me to slip into a zone and lose all sense of time, especially when I’m designing. My assistant slips into the room and tells me we have half an hour left, or whatever it is, until we need to move onto the next thing.

How do you give back?

By doing what I can for the causes near and dear to my heart. I established the Urban Zen Foundation in 2007 with three initiatives: firstly to preserve artisan culture, secondly to put the care in healthcare through wellness, thirdly to empower children through education of the mind, body and spirit. Within each initiative we have multiple on-going training programs that help to raise awareness and inspire change.

What inspires you?

Any and everything. If I had to limit it to a few things, it would be New York City, nature and all its beauty, and discovering artisan cultures around the world.

When you started out on your journey, what set you apart?

My passion and creativity.

And finally, what is your life mantra?

Never say never.

Rita Ora, Diane Kruger and Emmy Rossum wearing Donna Karan mainline on the red carpet and the DKNY spring/summer 2015 New York Fashion Week show.

DKNY is available at Fenwick Bond Street, Bracknell, Brent Cross, Canterbury, Colchester, Kingston, Leicester, Newcastle, Tunbridge Wells, Windsor and York.

By Claire Brayford