This is FRESH AIR. I'm Terry Gross. My guest, designer Donna Karan, has dressed people like Barbara Streisand and Bill Clinton when he was president. Her clothes have been worn on many red carpets, but her clothes are also worn at work and on the weekends by people who buy off the rack at shopping malls. A recent New York Times article described Karan's idea of fashion as almost anti-elitist. She was recently described in Women's Wear Daily as one of the most important designers in the history of American fashion. Karan started off as a designer at Anne Klein's and became Anne Klein's assistant. She eventually became the company's chief designer. Karan started her own company in 1984. In '89, she started her more affordable casual brand DKNY. Over the summer, she stepped down from her role as chief designer at Donna Karan International. She's focusing on philanthropic work and her company Urban Zen. She has a new memoir called \"My Journey.\"
KARAN: Well, Donna Karan was a personal wardrobe for myself and my friends. I really never imagined that Donna Karan would grow to the size that it grew. But it was really after designing Anne Klein I decided I wanted to have a little collection - small little collection - for me and my friends of my Seven Easy Pieces, starting with the bodysuit. And then my daughter and all her friends started wearing all my clothes and I needed a pair of jeans - voila, DKNY.
KARAN: Well, it was a double situation. All her friends were borrowing all my clothes and I said this has got to stop (laughter). And I realized there was a larger market out there for what we were doing. But I wanted to create sort of the Seven Easy Pieces that I had done for collection but through a more him and a her point of view that we all needed a pair jeans. We needed an anorak jacket. We needed a T-shirt. I love jumpsuits - a blazer and a pair jeans.
KARAN: I didn't. I didn't want to be a designer. The last thing I wanted to do was work on Seventh Avenue. I wanted to be a singer like Barbara Streisand and I wanted to be a dancer like Martha Graham. I loved the body. I loved the movement of the body. But I was neither of them. However, what I decided that I thought I would like to do is be an illustrator. I love drawing. I love drawing bodies. I love drawing fashion, but I wasn't thinking of myself as a designer in those days. And then I went for a job at Women's Wear Daily and they said, you know, I think maybe you should look into design instead of illustration (laughter). I saw that I could not sing like Barbara and I couldn't dance like Martha so I was sort of put into the fashion industry. I started working in Sherry's clothing store when I was young and I love dressing people. I loved helping them find the right clothes. I liked working in retail store, arranging it and making it look really pretty, making it easier for the customer. So I found that I was getting into fashion whether I liked it or not (laughter).
Kimerling rejected the idea that the company does not know what is going on inside the factories that make its clothes: \"Donna Karan has her people in those factories every day, making sure that her garments are up to quality. ... They know what's happening.\"
Joining the plaintiffs and lawyers at the press conference were representatives of human rights organizations, along with individuals who claim they have suffered from poor working conditions at other factories that make Donna Karan clothes. 59ce067264