Following the shocking announcement made last week by Donna Karan, revealing that she is stepping down as chief designer of her eponymous design house, we wonder what is next for the designer and entrepreneur. WWD sat down with her at the Donna Karen International (DKI) headquarters in New York to ask about her plans for the future, her emotional departure from the fashion label, career highlights and her fashion legacy. 

Retaining her sense of humour at this time of enormous change, Karan opened up about her philanthropic pursuits, her love of travel and her new passion project – Urban Zen, a lifestyle brand inspired by Karan's "chaotic" life and the pursuit of balance. 

On how her close-knit team at DKI reacted to the news: 

"There were a lot of tears. I don't think anybody expected it... I didn't expect to be here for this fall. I've always said, "This is it guys, this is it. I can't do it all." Kathleen [Boyes, writer for the company] would always write, "To be continued," and I would say, "No, say the end," and they'd say, "No, Donna."

On her next project – Urban Zen: 

"It's not a question of it being compelling. It's like having another child. It needs attention. The more that I travel, the more that I get away, the balancing of the three [DKNY, Donna Karan and Urban Zen] becomes more difficult. Urban Zen has been my vision for so many years."

donna karan young portrait

On any second thoughts after selling her company to LVMH in 1996:

"Absolutely, from the day we sold it. (Laughter). It's always hard because it's your baby. This is your child. How many times are you able to separate from your child? I don't think a day will go by that you don't want your child back. LVMH has been an extraordinary parent company. They respect the house, and if you look at what they accomplish, it's extraordinary"

On how she will reinvent herself in this new phase of her life: 

"The motorcycle diary. I really want to spend a lot of time traveling. My dream is to be on a motorcycle, on the back, and go to places that haven't been sought out yet and work with the artisans."

donna karan young portrait

On the Urban Living vision: 

"You walk into the store and there's cotton, cashmere, candles, CDs, café, all healthy food. You get upstairs and you meditate, do yoga, there's a conference area. People come together who want to create change in the world. Then you disrobe upstairs and you get a Thai massage, acupuncture. Next door to that is a restaurant and living space upstairs. We don't have to have a kitchen because you get it from downstairs. There's a spa upstairs. People like myself are constantly on the go, so I need my acupuncture, I need my massage. I need all these things, and it doesn't exist."

donna karan young portrait

On her number one career highlight: 

"Day number one, had I known that it would be the success that it was. I thought it was going to be for my friends and me. I had never even imagined."

donna karan young portrait