Donna Karan goes back to basics with a do-good brand of three shops
Having sold to LVMH in 2001, Donna Karan left the helm of the house that bears her name last year in a move that took many by surprise. “LVMH and I have made this decision after much soul-searching. I have arrived at a point in my life where I need to spend more time to pursue my Urban Zen commitment.” It was the first time many had even heard of Urban Zen, an East meets West lifestyle brand that she started in 2007 to sell clothing, accessories, homeware and furniture. What’s so interesting about it though is that it has aimed to present a new retail model that merges commerce with philanthropy through an allocation of a portion of all sales towards its own foundation. “It’s more than fashion,” says Karan. “It’s more like a movement. I call it conscious consumerism, where you’re both dressing a customer and addressing them because there’s a story behind every item.” The work of her foundation aims to bring together like-minded people and organisations to implement action in the areas of well-being, empowering children and preserving culture. To date, they have invested in a range of activities from a vocational school in Haiti with Parsons, to the development of a pilot programme at the Mount Sinai hospital to introduce Eastern healing into Western medical practices.