Fashion great Donna Karan graciously shared the key to her empire’s success with a small room of bloggers and fashion influencers in the American Express (AMEX) Skybox during Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week (MBFW) Fall 13. “Be in the now,” she said. Whew! If I knew it was that easy, I would have tried that long ago; her award-winning empire has managed to grow and stay relevant in a very fickle industry. Perhaps the concept applies to her grounded and spiritual nature and how we should appreciate every moment and savor life’s gifts. This clarity can bring about a business zen.
Or maybe it’s more literal. Her brand Urban Zen has partnered with AMEX and is using their technology to create an easy, quick and effective checkout experience for their new charity bracelet. Made by Haitian artisans, 100 percent of the proceeds go to the artisans, creating sustainable entrepreneurs and helping a country very much in need.
Donna Karan says she’s had to remove herself from the chaos of the fashion industry – and be a little bit unfashionable – to find her peace. Here are five ways to be “unfashionable,” according to Donna Karan:
1. Be Unfashionable – Being fashionable can literally mean “fitting in,” conforming. Donna Karan says to be a trailblazer instead. “The ‘norm’ was not President Obama, but our lives are forever changed because of him.”
2. Be in the NOW – Fashion is literally in the future, showing a season in advance. Donna Karan says, “In life, in our business, and in the way we treat each other, we must channel a spirit of now. As a community, we must take action in the face of crisis and help when we are needed.”
3. Get a Little Dirty – Fashion is meant to be aesthetically pleasing. She says don’t worry about getting a little dirty. She’s referring to her ongoing Haiti recovery efforts. “Sometimes you have to roll up your sleeves and just help.”
4. Don’t Compete - There is NO competition. She strained to hear the questions from the audience, remarking on how, though her panel was being drained out by the music from the fashion show below, a new designer was showing her fashions, and that’s what was important.
5. Have a Digital Strategy That Gives - Not many designers are using digital as creatively as Donna Karan. She says that she loves Twitter most for its social good potential. To be able to respond to world disaster, like the earthquake in Haiti, and then use technology to send donations has the potential create “change agents.”
For branding, her DKNY PR Girl Twitter personality shares the DKNY brand while also exploring a fun “PR Girl” character. She even live tweets to “Scandal!” According to the fashion icon, the best digital experience is one that focuses on the customer and not their pockets. Don’t bombard your clients with sales messaging.