Donna Karan

Designer Donna Karan (right) with professor Shelley Fox (left). Photo courtesy of Donna Karan

Before she was "The Queen of Seventh Avenue," quintessential New York City designer Donna Karan earned her stripes at Parsons The New School for Design.

Thursday night she revisited her alma mater to celebrate this fall's launch of two new graduate fashion programs at Parsons. In a lively conversation with Valerie Steele, the director and chief curator of The Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, the two fashion veterans discussed Karan's life, career and inspirations.

Throughout the evening, Karan delved into the social and political implications of fashion in today's global marketplace and the necessity of conscientious consumerism.

She touched on the myriad of challenges she faced in balancing a career and family throughout the years, the inspirations behind some of her most iconic ad campaigns and even flunking out of her draping class at Parsons.

Karan, who since 1984 has seamlessly combined practicality and glamour in women's apparel, is as passionate about her philanthropic endeavors as she is about fashion.

Most recently, she founded the Urban Zen Initiative and spoke at length of her very deep commitment to helping rebuild Haiti.

It's safe to say that her tremendous dedication to social responsibility and international success in the design world inspired more than a few Parsons students among the packed audience.

Plus, see what's new in Donna Karan's fashion empire.