Donna Sets Her Table

Donna Karan Lenox is designed for everyday use.

Donna Karan Lenox is designed for everyday use.

By Warren Shoulberg

Mention the name Donna Karan and you think of the iconic little black dress, her Zen-via-Queens approach to design and life and maybe even her line of home textiles that echo her signature fashion looks.

Now you can add tabletop and giftware to that list.

This month, Lenox will introduce its line of Donna Karan branded dinnerware, giftware and related tabletop products, marking one of the most anticipated debuts in the business.

Nearly ten years after she entered home with bed and bath textiles—a two-tiered collection licensed to CHF and sold in both department and specialty stores—the designer comes to the table with a line as heavily skewed to gifts and accessories as any tabletop program in recent memory.

Its multi-media make-up—ceramic, metal, glass and wood are all used—is further distinguished by a grouping of limited edition, collectors pieces, many of which are handmade.

Whatever the medium or the silhouette, there’s no mistaking it’s Donna Karan.

“My inspirations never change,” Karan told HFN in an exclusive interview: “Nature, global cultures and New York City.

“I never think in terms of trends or broadness of appeal,” she said. “I think of what speaks to me emotionally, what I would like to own in my life. As a designer, and really as a woman being at home, constantly entertaining and constantly traveling the world, I’m inspired by the beauty of what attracts me.

“It’s always something I haven’t seen before, something unique, hand-touched and something that has soul—yet something that also actually functions. If I get all that right, the rest will come.”

What will come at the Lenox showroom at tabletop market later this month—and in stores next February—is a wide-ranging assortment, ranging from traditional, gold-banded dinnerware to collector temple bells.

Donna purists will have no shortage of iconic items from which to choose, including the tabletop equivalent of the famous little black dress that put Karan on the fashion map.

“But of course,” she said when asked about little black plates. “We have a group called Seven Easy Pieces. It comes in high gloss white or black and it’s the seven essentials of serving, created to mix and match with everything else you own.

“To me, black is always the grounding force,” she said, adding, “yet it’s really a lifestyle choice for what works in your home, whatever the color you choose.”

Lenox, which had a big hit a few years ago with another fashion face, Kate Spade, believes the Donna Karan line can take tabletop in a new direction, particularly as it relates to giftware and collectibles.

The better tabletop market has been slow for a number of years following a boost from the Spade and Vera Wang introductions earlier this decade. Fashion designers have had a mixed track record in tabletop and those in the field are hoping the Karan line will jumpstart the category.

Said Glenn De Stefano, president of Lenox’s Donna Karan Lenox division, “As an American company we are privileged to be working with one of America’s most iconic fashion designers. Our companies’ collaborative effort has resulted in a tabletop and giftware collection that surpasses our dreams.”

“You can definitely feel the artisan, and everything feels good in the hand,” said Karan. “Artisan as it is, however, we created pieces to be used everyday and fit into your lifestyle for both your informal and formal occasions.

“Just like how my clothes are flexible enough to go day into evening with a change of accessories,” she said.

“The collection is being sold open stock, so you can buy according to the pieces you need, as opposed to a set of any kind. Most pieces are dishwasher safe. My feeling is if it’s in your home, it has to function and feel comfortable, however beautiful it is.”

That beauty will range in price fro $25 up through $3,000 for some of the limited-edition pieces.

Karan’s fashion collections bridge multiple price points and distribution channels, but she does not believe the luxury market has seen its day. “If you give someone something that has longevity, that can work in myriad ways and will always make them feel great and confident every time they reach for it, it’s an investment worth making.

“If you buy something you love that serves you well, it will live on in your home forever.”