After 15 years at Anne Klein, ten of which as head designer, in 1984 Karan and her late husband Stephan Weiss were offered the opportunity to start their own business by Takihyo LLC, owner of Anne Klein. The company became a publicly traded venture in 1996, and in 2001 it was purchased by French corporation Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy.
Donna Karan New York
Donna Karan's mainline label Donna Karan New York, also referred as Donna Karan Collection, debuted for fall 1985 with the women's collection Seven Easy Pieces, "where a handful of interchangeable items work together to create an entire wardrobe that goes from day to evening, week day to weekend, season to season". In July 1991 she launched her first menswear collection.
The "New York" part on the label is there to set "the pace, the attitude" of the fashion house's offering.
DKNY and other divisions
Inspired by her daughter Gaby, Donna Karan founded DKNY in 1989 as a younger, more affordable fast fashion diffusion line to run alongside her existing Donna Karan New York label. Many labels and brands have branched off of the original DKNY brand/label including DKNY Jeans, DKNY Active, DKNY Underwear, DKNY Juniors, DKNY Kids, DKNY Pure. DKNY Men, launched in 1992, consists of tailored suits, dress wear, formalwear, casual wear, sportswear, and shoes.
The Donna Karan Beauty collection, which specializes in fragrances, was launched in 1992. In 2001, the Donna Karan Home collection, which includes traditional luxury bedding and accessories, and DKNY Home, which has more contemporary and fashion-forward bedding, were introduced.
Cara Delevingne has been the face of DKNY for multiple seasons.
Stores opened in London in 1997 and New York City in 1999. The DKNY headquarters is located at 550 Seventh Avenue in Manhattan, New York. There are currently seventy Donna Karan collection and DKNY stores globally, including twenty stores in China including Hong Kong and Shanghai, two stores in Canada including Vancouver, B.C. and Montreal, four in Dubai. DKNY has also opened some stores in Denmark.
Since 2005, Donna Karan has offered online shopping of its DKNY and associated lines at the label's web site. Products range from DKNY and DKNY Jeans womenswear, accessories, underwear, shoes, baby clothing, the PURE collection to DKNY menswear. The latter was available up until the spring 2002 season. Since then only the DKNY Jeans label, underwear, eyewear and watches have been offered online for men.
In 2013 DKNY became embroiled in controversy over street photography it admitted it used in one of its stores, without permission, from the New York City street photographer, Brandon Stanton, the creator of Humans of New York (HONY). After Stanton learned of the use of his photography, he publicly asked DKNY to donate $100,000 to the YMCA to help with summer programs. Amidst strong criticism on social media sites, DKNY apologized and donated $25,000 to the YMCA. Stanton then asked his followers on the HONY Facebook page to make up the difference to reach his initial goal of $100,000, which was successfully reached March 1, 2013.