Elevating the Designer

Long before the launch of Anne Klein II, Donna, the head designer at Anne Klein, desired to individuate and start her own brand. At first, she wanted a new line under the Anne Klein umbrella. She was the only one who thought starting a new line with her name within Anne Klein was a good idea. Frank and I believed the Anne Klein Collection as well as the new bridge line had a distinctive look. Donna wanted to do something unique. Any innovation within the Anne Klein brand image, we believed, would clash. Keeping any new project differentiated from the parent was critical. So, Donna and I started talking about forming a new company.

Donna, however, was apprehensive. Starting a new line with her own design risked creating a new brand and business. Also, the fear of failure after such a long run at the Anne Klein Company haunted her dreams. Understandably, Donna had never made a name for herself since she had been working under the protection of an established brand. Donna noted her fears. I stepped back and let her continue working as she had in the Anne Klein design room. Anne Klein was doing so well, I didn’t want to lose the conceptual strength behind the name.

However, after 10 years, I feared Donna was talking too much with other members in the company about her future dreams. Her ambivalence marked a weakness in the design room that neither I nor other key executives could continue to tolerate. I knew that if Donna were to blow hot and cold ...

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