Donna Karan, one of America's premiere fashion designers and arguably the most important female designer of modern times, announced Tuesday that she will step down from her position as chief designer of Manhattan-based Donna Karan International.

Karan, who grew up in Hewlett and founded her company in 1984, is known for her approach to dressing successful women in clothing that is easy to wear yet also chic. More than 30 years ago, she established her look with a collection of "seven easy pieces" that revolved around a foundation she made famous -- the bodysuit. Her designs, often in her signature black, have been praised for embracing the figure in a sensual yet flattering way.

Karan, 66, told Women's Wear Daily she intends to spend more time working on her Urban Zen Company, following "my vision of philanthropy and commerce with a focus on health care, education and preservation of cultures."

She will continue as a close adviser to DKI. LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton bought about 90 percent of the company in 2001 for $243 million, plus another $400 million for a company that licensed the Donna Karan trademarks; LVMH later paid another $44 million to raise its stake to 98 percent.

DKI has no plans to name a successor right away and the company's Fashion Week runway show has been suspended. However, her secondary line, DKNY, will go on.

"Donna Karan deserves her place as a true icon of American fashion design," said Avril Graham, executive fashion and beauty editor at Harper's Bazaar. "Her signature silhouettes and deft working with jersey and fluid fabrications are so indicative of her understanding of the power of American sportswear -- flattering, fabulous and unapologetically feminine."

Adam Glassman, creative director of O The Oprah Magazine, interned at Karan's company 30 years ago while he was in college. "I remember Donna Karan running around the office trying everything on herself," he said, describing her work as that of a sculptor or an artist.

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"Donna Karan is a part of me, past, present and future," Karan said in a statement released Tuesday night. "I want to express my gratitude and my deepest feelings to the dozens and dozens of colleagues over the years who have helped take Donna Karan New York far beyond my wildest dreams."