Donna Karan on Stepping Down as Lead Designer for Her DKI Label

Part 6: Fashion icon talks with Barbara Walters about why she decided to leave the chief designer role at DKI.
4:37 | 12/18/15

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Transcript for Donna Karan on Stepping Down as Lead Designer for Her DKI Label
In the 23 years we've been doing this special, we've never picked a fashion designer before. I'm not sure why. But I know exactly why we are doing one now. As she stepped down this year from her famous label, we thought it was time to look at donna Karan's impact on the world of fashion. Donna Karan dresses everyone from red carpet royalty to presidents then and maybe now. But donna Karan isn't just a designer. She is a game-changer. In the 1980s, when women wore this to work, she revolutionized how women dressed, in clothes that were sleeker, more sensual, and way more comfortable. I got some clothes from donna when she was just starting out. I sent you an outfit, and I said, "Well, oh, my god. You look fabulous. How you do feel?" And you said, "I've never felt so uncomfortable in my life." And started taking off all these layers. I almost had a heart attack right then and there. Reporter: Donna Karan went on to build a $3 billion empire selling everything from clothing to cologne, housewares to hosiery. But this year, when Karan walked down the runway of her spring show, no one realized it would be the last time. She stepped down as lead designer of her namesake brand to focus on her urban zen foundation which supports artists' healthcare and education in countries like Haiti. Where are you at this point in your life? Right now, I'm looking at the next phase. But I'm also looking at myself and what do I want? Reporter: Donna was born 67 years ago in queens, new York. Fashion was in her genes -- her father a custom tailor, her mother a model. But donna's childhood was far from ideal, something she shares in her new memoir, "My journey." You say that your childhood, I'm quoting, was "Lonely and traumatic." Why? Well, my father died when I was 3 years old, and my mother being a working woman, I felt very lonely. Coming from a working woman's family, I promised that I would never have a child and work. Reporter: That isn't quite what happened. She had risen rapidly working for legendary designer Anne Klein when she got pregnant by her first husband, mark Karan. Her daughter gaby was born the same week Anne Klein died. Donna, then just 25, was left in charge. There I was, the woman who would never be a working woman, back at work in one week and a collection due. Reporter: In 1984, in a cramped showroom, she started her own line, which led to her more affordable casual brand, dkny. Her collections simplified an entire wardrobe in just seven easy pieces. And they are? It was the body suit, the wrap-and-tie skirt, a pair of pants, a sweater, a leather jacket, and a scarf. Reporter: Karan's partner in life and work was her second husband, artist Stephan Weiss. You met the love of your life, Stephan Weiss, while married to somebody else. You want to tell me about that? It was just around my engagement, and he walked into the room, and I fell head over heels in love with him. But he was married and he had two children, and it just wasn't the right time. And the time was right ten years later. And we got back together again. Reporter: For ten years, you didn't see him, then saw him and that was it? Well, no, we would see each other once in a while. Reporter: Oh? Should I go further? No, it's okay. Reporter: A little hanky-panky? They were married for 18 years until Stephan's death from lung cancer in 2001. At that moment, I was cut in half. I was not complete. Reporter: These days, donna is completed another way -- combining fashion and philanthropy with urban zen. No longer running one of America's biggest brands but still dreaming big. I feel much more centered, much more grounded, and much clearer. I mean, I should hope so, at my age. Reporter: I don't want to

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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