amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

Donna Karan

2009 New York Gala Honoree


“Everything I do is a matter of heart, body and soul,” says Donna Karan, chief designer of the international company that bears her name. “For me, designing is an expression of who I am as a woman, with all the complications, feelings and emotions.”

For Karan, her life as a fashion icon began, both literally and creatively, in New York. She was born into fashion on Long Island to a fashion sales-rep father and a showroom model mother, so it was only natural that Karan designed her first collection and staged her first show while still in high school.

After her second year at Parsons School of Design, Karan was hired by Anne Klein, and when Klein died in 1974 Karan was named successor (a position she shared with Louis Dell’Olio). Ten years later, the first Donna Karan New York Collection made fashion history; four years after that she revolutionized the industry once again with DKNY; and in 2001 the French luxury conglomerate LVMH, Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton acquired both brands. 

With social causes a heartfelt priority, Karan spearheaded Seventh on Sale benefits with the Council of Fashion Designers of America to raise funds for AIDS awareness and education. Karan also co–chairs the annual New York “Kids for Kids” events for the Elizabeth Glazer Pediatric AIDS Foundation, as well as “Super Saturday,” an event to benefit the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund.  In 2007, Karan founded the Urban Zen Initiative to create a working structure for advancing wellness, preserving culture and empowering children.