Tuesday at the Donna Karan International headquarters on 10th Avenue, the designer was abuzz with energy, greeting editors warmly and pulling hangers off the floating racks lining the room for the pacing models to try. In a year that marked the 30th anniversary of her company, the pre-fall collection stayed true to the mantra that the line was founded on: an urban uniform of easy pieces for layering, mixing and matching. Military accents, studs and grommets were incorporated into most pieces. Belts finished off almost all of the looks, most of which featured calf-length skirts.
We spoke with Karan at the preview about how online coverage of her collections has diminished her ability to surprise her customers and how she feels about incoming CEO Caroline Brown, who stepped down as president of Carolina Herrera in September. Plus, click through to see every look from pre-fall 2015 below.
How is your memoir coming? (It's due sometime in 2015 from Ballantine Bantam Dell.)
I love it, we were just talking about it. Every time I read back on a chapter I think, "I can end the book here because life repeats itself." So I really do find that there's a repetitiveness to it. 'I'm doing that again, didn't I do that already?' But every time, it comes out. I'm getting a lot of help from my friends because my memory is not exactly perfect right now. [My friends say] "Oh my god, don't you remember?" Everyone else remembers everything, so it truly helps me. I remember the layout of my life and I remember a lot from when I was a child. I find, weirdly enough, the stuff that's a little bit more blurry are all the seasons. There's all sorts of blur from one season to another.
Where do you like to write?
I go up to the studio at Urban Zen. I'm very comfortable there and there's a lot of great energy there. Upstairs, I like looking outside and being out in the terrace and being there. I also like to be out at the beach. Or wherever I am, I'm just kind of quiet and I like to read.
What has been a surprisingly challenging part of it? Do you have a title yet?
The title we haven't come up with, you're absolutely right. I've said at least ten titles already and I love them all but, you know, what I like doesn't necessarily mean what everybody else likes. So it's interesting to find out that what interests me sometimes doesn't interest somebody else. Even though I'm looking at the past, I'm looking at the future. So been there, seen it, done it kind of thing. But I really appreciate looking at the past. I didn't realize how many people have entered my life and been in my life and so much a part of my life. It's kind of staggering. So many people that I've had — like Christopher Bailey who is now the head of Burberry.
You said recently in an interview that pre-fall collections are monsters.
I hate them. No, it's not that I hate pre-fall. I don't like the idea of doing two fall seasons. I don't understand. What I don't like is having the consumer see—like if I showed this down the runway next week, it'd be fantastic. And now I have to do another fall collection because everyone has seen it. It goes to the press, it goes out on the daily communication now, which is I think not the best thing we could do to our customer. I'd rather them be seeing spring right now than in September, when I want to get them excited about fall. I think there's something—and I've said this my whole life so this is nothing new—because of the speed of communication today that is affecting the fashion business.
Would you want an embargo on the collection or something? To give buyers the time they need?
No, I think right before it goes into the stores, the customers should see it and so should the immediate press. But to see it this far in advance, it's like it's confusing the customer for the next season. Particularly if you're dropping a hem or you're changing a silhouette and then you didn't do it for the next season—I think it doesn't allow for that 'oh my god, brand-newness' because you can't shock the customer.
You've spoken about your desire to do handbags again. Any plans for that in the future?
I hope so.
How do you feel about entering a new chapter of the company when Caroline Brown becomes CEO in January? Though you've had a lot of CEOs at this point.
I sure have. I've had many chapters in the life of this company. I'm very excited about her. Caroline is a woman, it's the first time I've had a woman CEO. Even though every single division head is a woman, so I'm used to working with all women. And certainly I see her in all these clothes. I think she would love every single one of them. I think she'll love the collection.
This interview has been edited and condensed.