THE SEV­ENTH won­der

De­signer Donna Karan tells Bazaar the tale be­hind her sum­mer col­lec­tion and her affin­ity for In­dia. By Carol Singh

Harper's Bazaar (India) - - SARI SPLENDOUR -

In the late ‘80s, one woman de­cided to put an end to a lady’s con­stant closet co­nun­drum by of­fer­ing her multi-pur­pose cloth­ing op­tions that were com­fort­able yet com­mand­ing. Donna Karan, who set up her sig­na­ture line in 1985, de­buted with a col­lec­tion called ‘Seven Easy Pieces’, which in­cluded lilt­ing leo­tards, a coat, a jacket, a blouse, a skirt, and some­thing slightly spe­cial for the evening. Well, noth­ing much has changed since; Karan is still serv­ing up fab­u­lous wardrobe fillers for ev­ery ur­ban woman out there, in­clud­ing the neo-in­dian town girl.

“My style is very much about drap­ing the body, I love the tra­di­tional sari way of dress­ing, con­ceal­ing, and re­veal­ing, ac­cen­tu­at­ing the pos­i­tive and delet­ing the neg­a­tive,” says Karan of her con­nect with the In­dian cus­tomer. Per­haps it is this pen­chant for the drape that has turned so many lo­cal women into her loy­al­ists. Karan be­lieves that there is as much cor­re­la­tion as there is a con­trast amongst the ur­ban Amer­i­can woman and her In­dian coun­ter­part. “The more I travel, the more I ap­pre­ci­ate our sim­i­lar­i­ties and our dif­fer­ences. In­dia is such a so­phis­ti­cated coun­try, and the women are so beau­ti­ful. We share the de­sire for vi­brant colour, fine tex­tiles, em­broi­dery, and adorn­ment,” says the de­signer whose ado­ra­tion for In­dia was born out of her love for yoga and spir­i­tu­al­ity.

Karan has been in­volved in var­i­ous char­ity projects since the start of her ca­reer, which has made her travel to places far and wide. Her lat­est col­lec­tion for Donna Karan New York, is in fact in­spired by Haiti (a part of the Caribbean Is­lands), where she is work­ing to­wards de­vel­op­ing the coun­try’s craft trade. For her line this sum­mer, her two worlds meshed to­gether—“the mod- ern so­phis­ti­ca­tion of New York and the raw vi­brancy of Haiti,” as she puts it. The col­lec­tion’s bold, tribal ac­ces­sories are hand­crafted by Haitian ar­ti­sans and the var­i­ous eth­nic pat­terns were adopted from the work of na­tive artist, Philippe Do­dard. For her DKNY line, her ref­er­ence point stays true to its young city girl core, draw­ing in­spi­ra­tion from mod­ern Amer­i­can art and cul­ture.

Even with such pre­cise ref­er­enc­ing, her pieces are eas­ily adapted. Karan re­it­er­ates, “This is an in­di­vid­ual who is creative and styles the clothes in her own fash­ion.” It is this easy and in­stinc­tive ap­proach that has made Karan such an univer­sal favourite; her designs are al­ways mod­ern in any con­text. Karan’s great­est strength is to be able to il­licit a sim­ple nar­ra­tive even with all things oth­er­wise complicated, such as the LBD. And if you look at the new-age, most-no­ticed brigade of women de­sign­ers, the most suc­cess­ful (read Phoebe Philo for Cé­line and Stella Mccart­ney) are those who have been able to ad­dress the fuss-free, snob­bery-proof needs of women with­out try­ing to shackle them with ab­surd grandeur.

Even for the sul­try In­dian sum­mer, Karan has all the an­swers. “We have evolved the Cozy this time into a sleeve­less, printed silk scarf. The prin­ci­ple is the same—you can wrap, tie, or belt it into a dress or wear it over a skirt or leg­gings; it’s the per­fect sum­mer piece,” she says. The Cozy is al­ready a beloved item of most In­dian women since DKNY en­tered the In­dian mar­ket in the sum­mer of 2009. How­ever, the brand’s sig­na­ture line, Donna Karan New York is not yet as read­ily avail­able to the lo­cal cus­tomer. Karan says of her plans for In­dia, “We very much want to sell in In­dia and are ex­plor­ing ways to do that, whether through one of your stores or open­ing one of our own.” Well, seems like it might not be too long be­fore we can steadily stroll into one of Donna Karan’s stores and in­vest in her ubiq­ui­tous drapes and easy es­sen­tials.

Karan leaves us with her best buy for the sea­son, “DKNY’S long, strap­less or tank dresses come in silk and cot­ton jer­sey ver­sions that float on the body as you walk—k these feel like noth­ing against your skin.” And that’s the al­lure she wields—cel­e­brat­ing the fe­male form in all its ease has never been a for­mi­da­ble feat for Karan.

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