Donna Karan has had a long and storied career in American style, and now that her reign at her namesake fashion house has come to an end (she remains an adviser), she has plenty to talk about in her new memoir, My Journey, out now.
In it, Karan details everything from her childhood with a mother whose behavior is straight out of Mommie Dearest (there is actually a no-wire-hangers incident) to getting fired from an early job at Anne Klein. The final chapter shows Karan opening up about the somewhat recent news that she would step down at Donna Karan International in order to focus on Urban Zen, her artisan-inspired and -designed brand, which is also a philanthropy project that focuses on education, healthcare and culture.
“After a lifetime of dressing (and being) the woman who juggles a million roles, I’m here to tell you that it take a toll. People always ask me ‘How do you do it all?’ The truth is I don’t. I can’t tell you how much time I spend organizing my schedule, trying to squeeze in this person, that appointment, a fund raiser for this, a quick fabric trip abroad, and, of course, quality time in my design rooms,” she writes, revealing a sense of relief at a freer life. “I’ll never stop exploring, because it’s what I haven’t done that excites me most. That’s my journey: learning form the past, living in the present, and journeying into the future with the light as my guide.”
Here, TIME interviews Karan about that journey, and more.
TIME: What was the most important thing to you in writing this memoir?
Karan: I wanted to get it all down while I could still remember it! I’ve lived the most extraordinary life and by writing this book I could relive it and capture it for myself, yes, but also for my grandchildren.
Why did you decide to start your book with your 9/11 story?
My life has been a story of birth and death, of loss and renewal. Everything collided for me on 9/11. I was in deep mourning because it was my first wedding anniversary without my husband. We were scheduled to have our DKNY show. And then the city – the very one I named my company after – was under attack and I could see it unfolding from outside my window. That day proved that life goes on even after the most horrific tragedy imaginable.
You dedicate a chapter to travel. What’s going to be your next big trip?
I have all these C countries I want to get to: Colombia, China, Chile and Cuba. But I think Cuba is next up.
Did you catch Lena Dunham’s interview with Hillary Clinton? What did you think about her comments on the “cold shoulder” dress you designed?
Yes, I did and was very flattered, of course. I love Hillary. She is the consummate role model, a true world leader, walking the talk while juggling the roles we all do as wife, mother and grandmother. Starting with wearing that dress before anyone else did, she is bold, brave and is ready to lead the way forward.
What are the best and worst trends today, for men and for women?
I don’t think in terms of trends — I never have. It’s all about feeling good in your clothes, knowing your body and sticking with what works, whatever the trends of the day. Today’s customer knows that. She’s not buying an entire new wardrobe every season. Now she picks up an item that will make everything feel fresh and makes it her own depending on how she wears it.