Karen Kane, Inc.
Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising, California
Karen Kane has loved creating clothes ever since she learned to sew at age 10. She started by making her own clothes. Today her contemporary sportswear designs are worn by millions of women.
"I have a passion for what we do," says Kane, speaking of the sportswear line she and her husband started in 1979, three years after she graduated from the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles. Kane handles the creative side of the business while her husband, Lonnie, oversees the finances and manufacturing.
They began the company as newlyweds, using their garage for a workroom until they could afford to rent a loft for their sewing machines. They didn’t have anything in those early days but "dedication and desire," Kane says.
Now, Karen Kane Inc. employs 250 people and has a 100,000 square foot, state-of- the-art factory. Her collection is sold at upscale department stores and specialty stores across the nation and in three Karen Kane stores and four Karen Kane outlets. The privately held company had a wholesale volume of more than $75 million in 1999.
Designs bearing Karen Kane’s name are fashionable without being trendy and are favored by women who, like Karen, are busy balancing work and family. Her line is known for its use of well-made fabrics and high-quality workmanship. As one fashion observer explained, "Karen knows her customer well because she feels she is her customer."
Kane credits the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising with giving her a solid foundation in the fashion industry. When the institute’s representatives visited her Santa Barbara high school, they showed her that she could satisfy both her interest in fashion and her parents’ desire for her to continue her education, she says. Today, she supports the institute’s scholarship program and hires institute students and graduates.
Kane completed the institute’s two-year program in June 1976 and began work as a pattern maker for a junior sportswear company. It was there that she met her husband and that they decided to go into business for themselves.
Lonnie Kane told Apparel Industry Magazine last year that his wife is the secret of the company’s success.
"I married well," he told the magazine in an April 1999 interview. "Karen is an extremely talented person who understands the consumer and is very open to design change. I have the world’s greatest source of new product."
She also lends her efforts to causes ranging from her sons’ parent-teacher association to Big Sisters of Los Angeles. Together, she and her husband raised money for a pediatric AIDS unit at Cedar Sinai Medical Center. And in 1996, she was honored as a "Treasure of Los Angeles" by the Central City Association for her outstanding contributions to the community.