'I thought, Oh my God, who is he': How Donna Karan fell for her second husband at the engagement party for her first marriage
Fashion failures: Designer Donna Karan has revealed how her path to success was not a smooth one
It is hard to imagine Donna Karan ever struggled to find her feet in the tricky world of fashion.
But in a candid new interview the designer has told how her rise to success was not as smooth as one might imagine.
She also laid bare how she fell for her second husband, Stephan Weiss, during an engagement party before her wedding to childhood sweetheart, Mark Karan.
In a Q & A session at New York's
92Y community centre, she revealed how she was immediately struck by Weiss, a sculptor and painter, who she remained with until his death from lung cancer in 2001.
'I was engaged to be married to
Mark, and then all of a sudden, at the engagement party, Stephan walks
into the room, and I thought, Oh my God, who is he' she said.
'Ten years older, ponytail, artist – the whole nine yards…
went to Paris and said to Paris, “What do I do Here's a guy, my best
friend, my first boyfriend when I was 16 years old. He was going to take
care of me. Or this other guy who is an artist, hot, bohemian, sort of
unavailable. What do I do” So I married Mark three days later.'
Ms Karan had a child with her first husband, a daughter called Gabby, but the couple divorced in 1978.
The designer also shared her journey from her humble
beginnings as a teenage shop assistant from The Five Towns, New Jersey,
to building one of America's most successful fashion empires.
worked in a clothing store, at Shurrie's, as a salesgirl,' she said. 'I wanted to be an
illustrator, not a designer, so I would sketch in the dressing room.
'I tell anybody in the fashion industry, “If you want to be a designer, you must work in retail.”'
Love at first sight: Ms Karan with her late husband Stephan Weiss in 1999
in a revelation that will surprise many of her competitors and fans,
the designer admitted she flunked out of fashion school.
'I went to Parsons, but I didn't graduate… I had to go to summer school, because I failed draping. I showed them'
went to Parsons, but I didn't graduate. You know that I had to go to
summer school, because I failed draping. I showed them.'
Not that the young designer girl was distracted from her goal.
Ms Karan went on to tell how Anne Klein hired her after mistakenly thinking
she was a model and telling her that her hips were 'too big'.
Family empire: The designer with daughter Gabby (left), from her first marriage to Mark Karan, and granddaughter Stefania
really pissed me off,' she admitted. 'I said, “No, I want to be a designer”… it was an
extraordinary experience… Anne taught me the best lesson in the world –
that a designer is a designer even if she's designing toothbrushes and
The hard work paid off as, years later, she had the opportunity to design for her idol – Barbra Streisand.
girlfriend called me up and said, “I have someone you're going to meet,
and you're going to freak,”' she recalled. '…I had my hair like Barbra. I wanted to sing like
Barbra. That's all I wanted to do.'
Mutual fans: Ms Karan at an event in 1999 with her friend Barbra Streisand
the one item that the songstress wanted to see was a chenille jumper
that had seen an unhappy ending – albeit in one of the most famous nightclubs of all time.
was at Studio 54, smoking a cigarette, and all of a sudden my sweater
went up in flames, she revealed. 'And I said, “Oh my God, now what do I do”'
for the designer, her relationship with Ms Streisand didn't
go up in smoke too, and a few years later, would go on to make the singer's wedding dress.