Photo: Samantha Chang

Legendary fashion designer Donna Karan discussed her work, her philanthropic ventures, and her devotion to yoga during a riveting lecture at the Fashion Institute of Technology in NYC on Oct. 27.

Karan, 64, gave a thoughtful and moving career retrospective while promoting her new book, “Connecting the Dots,” at the first annual Designers and Books Fair.

The fashion icon discussed how the death of her late husband, Stephan Weiss, provided the impetus for her book, which is a loving tribute to their life together and to his incredible sculptures and paintings.

Weiss, an artist and former co-CEO of the Donna Karan Co., died of lung cancer in 2001 at age 62. Since then, Karan has thrown herself headlong into charity work, social activism and spiritual enlightenment.

Through her Urban Zen Foundation (which she founded in 2007), Karan promotes alternative therapies, yoga and nutrition, and is vocal about her desire to change the healthcare system to integrate holistic Eastern medicine with conventional Western practices.

Karan’s passion for yoga and meditation was also shaped by the tragic and untimely deaths of close friends, such as her mentor Anne Klein (breast cancer); friend Liz Tilberis (ovarian cancer) and confidant Perry Ellis (AIDs).

“Each and every one of us is, or will be, a patient or a caregiver,” said the mom of three. “Nobody gets away from illness.”

Karan, who has been a yoga devotee since the age of 18, says everyone can learn something from the practice of yoga.

“I’ve always been a yogi, always on a path,” she said. “People think yoga is about being able to put your leg behind your head, but the highest form of yoga is sitting still and just breathing.”

Karan says personal loss has made her that much more determined to be a force for positivity and optimism.

“Stephan used to say that you could either look at the plus or the minus in life. That’s your choice,” she recounted. “When I was crying every day because he was sick with cancer, he would say, ‘I’m right here beside you now, so what are you crying for?’

“We each have the choice to look at the pluses or minuses.”

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