Forget the Olsen twins. Donna Karan is the original pioneer of leggings.
They were one of the Seven Easy Pieces, a landmark simple-dressing system that Karan debuted in 1985. The aim of this news-making concept was to offer modern women (strong women, with ambitions and complicated home lives and real bodies) a streamlined formula to take them from the boardroom to the banquette. Among the super seven were a bodysuit, a blazer, and, of course, leggingswith stretch jersey, lots of black, and strong shoulders creating a variety of body-sculpted silhouettes.
Karan's warm, everywoman persona was, and is, part of the appeal. Hailing from Long Island, she made her name at Anne Klein and was handpicked by Klein, who died in 1974, to be her successor. After a decade dressing the career women who flocked to Anne Klein, Karan founded her own company, taking on power dressing as a career woman, herself, very much on top.
The launch of DKNY ("the pizza to the Collection's caviar," Karan has called it) was the first of many shrewd expansions of the brand. Donna Karan International went public in 1996, and five years later was bought for a cool $243 million by LVMH, which threw in an additional $400 million to buy the corporate entity that owns the brands themselves. Karan has been named the CFDA Womenswear Designer of the Year three times and was honored with the CFDA Lifetime Achievement Award in 2004. The DKNY name now appears on menswear, jeans, lingerie, activewear, home wares, and fragrance.
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