Urban Zen was founded by Donna Karan more than twenty years ago, as a philanthropic endeavor to support Urban Zen Foundation and also to help artisans throughout the world. It all began during a trip to Bali, from where she had been sourcing and manufacturing furnishings. Immediately, Karan felt a real connection to the artisans and their beautiful craft.
Since that time, Karan has traveled around the world in search of unique furnishings. As Karan says, “Urban Zen is about forming communities who want to help create change that is needed in the world.”
Paying it forward is what Karan is all about… she says that she doesn’t believe in giving money, she believes in giving help. Karan thinks of Urban Zen as a way to raise awareness to three issues that are close to her heart: preservation of culture, healthcare, and education. She calls them “past, present, and future” and these are the initiatives promised through the Urban Zen Foundation.
Culture: this was brought into the light after Karan visited Haiti following the horrible earthquake of 2010. She was astounded at how creative the entire population was, everyone was an artist!
Karan has impacted healthcare through the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program. Yoga, medication, palliative care, and support is given to patients, caregivers, and healthcare practitioners. Following her late husband’s death, Karan is especially adamant about making sure nurses are taken care of!
The curated pieces that Karan selects come from Columbia, Haiti, Indonesia, Thailand, Mali, and the US. The wide range of artwork, home furnishings jewelry, books, and fashion accessories are all on display… and every one of them makes for unique, perfect, one-of-a-kind gifts.
Education is the third pillar of the Urban Zen Foundation. The Foundation works together with children’s organizations to create yoga, art, nutrition, and meditation programs. The idea is that kids’ well-being is at the center of productive and long-term learning.
Urban Zen’s promise is two-fold… artisans globally are able to sell their wares and earn well-deserving prices; and the foundation benefits from the accessories and furnishings sold. Karan says, “Create, collaborate, communicate, and be a catalyst for change. I am all about the C-words, not just cotton and cashmere.”
With a Manhattan store, a store in the Hamptons, and one in Los Angeles, Karan is happy to travel the world in order to stock her boutiques with pieces from the 45 artisans that Urban Zen represents.
Urban Zen was inspired by Karan’s husband, Stephan Weiss who passed away from cancer. As a lifelong member of the fashion industry, Karan can safely say that her focus has shifted from “dressing people to addressing people”. Simply fabulous!