Donna Karan was born on October 2, 1948, in New York City, New York, the United States, to Helen ("Queenie") and Gabby Faske. Both her mother and father were involved in fashion careers, so it seemed inevitable she should follow in their footsteps. Her father was a custom tailor who died in a car accident when Donna was three years old.
Her mother had been a showroom model turned fashion sales representative. Helen's second husband was Harold Flaxman, who was also involved in the garment business. The family moved to Long Island after the marriage, where Karan and her older sister Gail were raised.