Donna Karan reminded us she's an original girl boss at the fashion awards
Beyoncé may be the symbol of female determination and success today, but there was another woman honored at the CFDA Awards Monday who helped pave the way for girls to run the world.
Donna Karan reminded us all while accepting the Founders Award in honor of Eleanor Lambert that she is an original girl boss, helming a company long before Sophia Amorusofounded Nasty Gal and Lena Dunham developed material for Girls.
“In 1973, Eleanor Lambert put American fashion on the map with the Battle of Versailles. I know a lot of you may not be old enough to know what it was, there are just a few of us left, unfortunately, to witness American designers put next to the French,” she said, launching the beautiful story of a difficult time that changed the course of her life.
At the time, Karan worked as an associate designer for Anne Klein, one of five American designers selected to present collections at a charity show in the palace against major French designers including Yves Saint Laurent and Hubert de Givenchy.
“We were in the girl’s room, so we were down in the basement because that’s the way it was. I was sitting down there, seven months pregnant with my daughter, Gabby, thinking it was the last time I’d ever be in fashion. Unfortunately, and as we all know, the woman who has taught me everything I know today died at a very young age of breast cancer. It was something that changed my life forever.”
Karan went on to say that Anne Klein, who had been diagnosed with breast cancer at 50 and was in the hospital at the same time she gave birth in 1974. The company, distraught that the latest line would go unfinished and not show or sell during that season, called Karan and begged her to return.
“I said, 'Would you like to know whether I had a boy or girl? By the way, I had a girl, her name is Gabby.'"
And with that, Karan says they took the entire company and collection to her home so she could put it together for the next day. As she was working, they got the call that Klein had died.
“What was I to do? There was my daughter Gabby, my baby, the love of my life, and what I was going to do was to be a stay-at-home mom,” she told the room of colleagues, there celebrating her long career that blossomed out of that moment. One defined by making garments that were easy to wear yet professional for working women.
“So what I’m here to say is that what we want, is not necessarily where we are guided.”