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Fashion label to ‘yogi’: Donna Karan on an Indian holiday

'I've always felt connected to India,' she says

Written by Namrata Zakaria | Coimbatore |
March 14, 2013 1:45:01 am

When you spot her chanting ‘Aum Namah Shivaya’ with almost six lakh others,dressed in a South Indian silk sari,hair rolled up in a neat bun with jasmine,you would hardly believe this is the woman whose fashion empire pretty much runs the American retail industry. This is Donna Karan,who along with Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein,makes the holy trinity of American fashion’s mega labels.

Karan is here in India following the “yogi” within her to Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev’s Isha Foundation ashram outside Coimbatore. It is the big night of Mahashivratri and Sadhguru is giving his discourse to a sea of humanity,which includes filmmaker Shekhar Kapur,adman and lyricist Prasoon Joshi,society eminents Devieka and Suresh Bhojwani,Shivani Modi and Mitali and Prahlad Kakar.

Karan has been practising yoga since she was 18 (she’s now in her 60s),much before it became the new black in the US. This is her third trip to India in just over a decade. She first visited Varanasi with her husband Stephan Weiss.

“I’ve always felt connected to India even before I ever visited it,” says Karan when we meet for a curd-rice lunch the next day. “I’m sure I was here in a past life.” She’s wearing a loose white kurta and pants,with an Indian kantha embroidered red stole on one shoulder. Her hair is pulled up into a youthful ponytail.

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She is honest to admit wearing a sari was “constricting”. “I am a dancer,I like movement,but the sari could do with a few tuck-ins,” she smiles. “But the most incredible thing about a sari is that it’s all about the personality of the fabric,it allows the fabric to talk.”

Karan,considered by many as the Coco Chanel of our generation,has been efficacious in revolutionising the working woman’s wardrobe. Her biggest contribution to fashion would be her mix-and-match “seven easy pieces” that she builds her collection around.

Although a harbinger of beautiful basics,Karan brings a couture-esque sensibility with her fine tailoring and soft drapes. Her Donna Karan fashion line is quickly followed by her outsize mass retail label DKNY.


About her super success,she says she was just making clothes that she and her friends would like to wear. “I didn’t expect a lot of people to wear them,” she says. Karan has to her credit six CFDA awards (the fashion Oscars of the US),and a Lifetime Achievement Award presented to her in 2004.

From “dressing” people,she began “addressing” them: Karan is a well-respected philanthropist. She has contributed to the reconstruction of Haiti and has also hosted events to raise funds for ovarian cancer.

As homage to her late husband,Karan set up an initiative called Urban Zen,which makes a sound case for integrated healing using eastern remedies,yoga,reiki,aromatherapy and nutrition. The Urban Zen Integrated Therapy trains and provides care to doctors,nurses and therapists.


India has often been muse to Karan and her latest collection is hugely inspired by the sari (including a dress with a shawl and exposed midriff).

Karan says Sadhguru is the “coolest person in the world”,but she won’t confirm whether Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie married at her Parrot Cay estate over Christmas or not.

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First published on: 14-03-2013 at 01:45:01 am

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