Donna Karan is no longer happy with the company that has owned her brand (and employed her) for the past 13 years, LVMH.
In an interview with the New York Times, Karan says that she has wanted to work more closely with LVMH, but the French conglomerate, which also owns Céline, Dior and Givenchy, has given her "the cold shoulder." She indicates that the company, for one, hasn't given her the support she has needed to build a significant luxury handbag business -- "instead they saw me as a fashion designer," she says -- and her eponymous label has suffered as a result. (One of her biggest supporters, Bloomingdale's, stopped carrying the line six months ago). Donna Karan's Executive Director of Global Marketing Patti Cohen adds that a hoped-for relationship between Karan and Delphine Arnault, LVMH's executive vice president and the daughter of its chairman, Bernard Arnault, has not developed, despite interest on Karan's side.
It's rare for anyone to publicly criticize his or her employer, and especially rare when that employer is a fashion goods company as large and powerful as LVMH. (Look at the legal brouhaha that ensued after Nicolas Ghesquiere criticized his previous employer, Kering, on the record after leaving his post at Balenciaga.)
So what, exactly, is going on here? It's clear that Karan is unhappy with her relationship with LVMH, and that going on record with her marketing head was a strategic effort on her (or the company's) part to get the attention of the conglomerate's execs -- a goal she's no doubt achieved. There are two likely outcomes: 1) Karan gets the meetings, potentially with Delphine Arnault, she wants; or 2) She lays the groundwork for a split between LVMH and her own brand. When asked if there have been discussions about ending their relationship, Karan told the Times, "Not that I know of, right now -- not at the moment" -- a response that indicates that at some later moment, those discussions may very well happen.
Spokespeople from LVMH and Donna Karan did not respond to requests for further comment.