Donna Karan talks personal taste: Part Two

The fashion designer’s compendium of passions includes the great energy of Costa Rica and Orange County’s best clothing boutique

Donna Karan at home in New York
Donna Karan at home in New York | Image: Dorothy Hong

The last things I bought and loved were artisanal textiles from the open-air markets surrounding the Seminyak area of Bali. I love, love, love artisan pieces – jewellery, clothing, decorative objects; when I travel, it’s these handmade pieces that stop me. You feel the spirit of the person who made them, the craft culture that has been passed from generation to generation. It connects the past, present and future.

And the thing I’m eyeing next is a vacation – to Cuba and Colombia. I value travelling and experiences more than anything and love to seek out the new and undiscovered. I always say my favourite place is the one I haven’t been to and these two are next on my bucket list.

Birdman, by Stephan Weiss
Birdman, by Stephan Weiss | Image: Colin Hofman

An object I would never part with is my late husband Stephan’s collection of artwork. I have so much of it in my home and also at my philanthropic foundation, the Urban Zen Center. There’s nothing more personal to me. My very favourite piece is called Birdman, a brass sculpture that looks like it’s taking flight. Urban Zen Center, 711 Greenwich Street, New York, NY 10014 (+1212-414 8520;

An unforgettable place I’ve travelled to in the past year is Costa Rica. I went with my daughter Gabby, her husband Gianpaolo, and their children Stefania and Sebastino. It was my first time there and I loved it. Each gorgeous place was so understated but also had great energy. The country is raw and untravelled in many places and I adored the adventure of getting into an open Jeep and exploring the dirt roads with monkeys swinging from the trees above. I particularly loved Playa Hermosa in Santa Teresa, where I watched my grandchildren surf; Koji’s, a Japanese restaurant right on the beach; and Couleur Café for its fresh juices. The food was exceptional everywhere we went – Playa de los Artistas in Montezuma was another favourite – and I can’t wait to return. Couleur Café, main access road to Playa Hermosa, Santa Teresa (+506-2640 0677). Koji’s Restaurant, 400m south of Hermosa Valley School, Playa Hermosa, Santa Teresa (+506-2640 0815). Playa de los Artistas, Montezuma (+506-2642 0920).


And the best souvenir I’ve brought home is peace of mind. Time with my family does that for me. I take on many projects, professionally and philanthropically, and it’s hard for me to let go. To be in a place like Costa Rica was a true vacation. The phone reception was bad so I couldn’t be in constant contact, which turned out to be a great thing.

An indulgence I would never forgo is yoga. I practise every morning – either privately in my apartment if I’m in the city, or at Yoga Shanti in Sag Harbor when I’m in the Hamptons. It’s an indulgence because I have to squeeze it into my busy schedule, but it’s the calm in the chaos of the day that awaits me. Yoga Shanti, 32 Bridge Street, Sag Harbor, New York, NY 11963 (+1631-725 6424;

Obsolete antiques shop in New York
Obsolete antiques shop in New York

If I didn’t live in New York, the city I would live in is LA. It is the closest lifestyle to New York and all my friends live there. A perfect day includes a walk on the beach in Malibu; a drive along the Pacific Coast Highway; and exploring the antiques shop Obsolete, where I always find pieces to buy, and A’maree’s, a favourite fashion boutique in Orange County with a brilliant edit. In the evenings I usually hang out at my friends’ homes, but I also love a good dinner out – with great people watching – at either Nobu or Chateau Marmont on Sunset Boulevard. A’maree’s, 2241 West Coast Highway, Newport Beach (+1949-642 4423; Chateau Marmont, 8221 Sunset Boulevard, West Hollywood(+1323-656 1010; Nobu Los Angeles, 903 North La Cienega Boulevard (+1310-657 2900; Obsolete, 11270 West Washington Boulevard, Culver City (+1310-399 0024;

In my fridge you’ll always find ingredients for my green juice. I love the fresh taste and it packs in so many important daily nutrients. I have a glass every morning and take a flask or two to work to get me through the day. You’ll also find salmon for poaching, various homemade soups and eggs for my morning egg-white omelettes.

Chiltern Firehouse
Chiltern Firehouse | Image: Nicholas Kay

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose Belgravia and Mayfair in London; I really only shop when I travel. I love Egg for its eclectic mix of eastern-inspired clothing and emerging designers, and Dover Street Market for six storeys of fashion finds, art installations and new ideas. After shopping, Chiltern Firehouse is a new favourite for its vibrant atmosphere and I love Scott’s for its classic fresh seafood. At the end of the day, I adore retreating to The Halkin, which is a home away from home and holds so many memories for me. Chiltern Firehouse, 1 Chiltern Street, W1 (020-7073 7676; Dover Street Market, 17-18 Dover Street, W1 (020-7518 0680; Egg, 36 Kinnerton Street, SW1 (020-7235 9315; The Halkin by Como, 5-6 Halkin Street, SW1 (020-7333 1000; Scott’s, 20 Mount Street, W1 (020-7495 7309).

The sites that inspire me are views of the ocean in the Hamptons in spring and summer, and in winter, the sunset against New York’s ever-changing skyline. I will stop my car to get out and inhale the beauty of a sunset; I particularly love the view from a spot on the West Side Highway near Stephan’s apple sculpture.

Young Living Thieves Essential Oil Supplement, £37.50 for 15ml
Young Living Thieves Essential Oil Supplement, £37.50 for 15ml

The beauty staples I’m never without are the essential oils that I use for everything – as scent, as a massage oil, and to set the olfactory atmosphere in both private and public spaces. I use Young Living Essential Oils, where the spicy, woody Thieves is my favourite. I also love the more calming lavender version. £37.50 for 15ml;

If I weren’t doing what I do, I would be on the back of a motorcycle, going from one artisan village to another, supporting and developing their trade and bringing it to the world. I’d publish my journal about this alternative life and call it My Motorcycle Diaries.  


See also