When Donna Karan stepped down as head of her fashion labels in 2015, it caused an international sensation.
Her eponymous label, which she established in 1985, as well as her associated (and more affordable) DKNY range, allowed Donna Karan to become one of the richest and most popular fashion designers of the late 20th century. The combined sale of her companies brought in an estimated $450 million when they were purchased by the French luxury conglomerate LVMH in 2000.
Karan, now 67, has decided that a change is necessary. Following the death of her husband Stephan Weiss in 2001, she began to contemplate what was truly important in life. Her routine, as told to Michèle Jaffè-Pearce of The Sunday Times, describes one which is filled with mindfulness and meditation.
Now that Karan has stepped away from her company, her focus is now placed on Urban Zen, her foundation which, as she puts it, ‘brings together philanthropy and commerce‘.
“I have spent decades dressing people. Now I want to address them.” – Donna Karan.
Urban Zen has several forms. One of which is the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Programme. This facet of the project is something which Karan is incredibly passionate about. In an interview with Forbes magazine, Karan explains how witnessing the treatment that her husband received, whilst hospitalised and under treatment for lung cancer,
“When my husband Stephan – my partner in life, love, business and family – was sick with lung cancer, it was a wake-up call,” Karan explains. “Everyone was taking care of the disease, but who was taking care of the patient and the loved ones? Stephan needed the knowledge of traditional Western medicine. But he also needed healing that can only be accessed from the heart and through the spirit. It was then that I realized that there was a missing link in healthcare and education. As someone who has practiced yoga for so many years, I realized what was missing in my husband’s care: yoga, meditation, essential oils, Reiki, nutrition and an understanding of palliative care. Each and every one of us is a patient and a loved one. No one gets away with it. So I created the UZIT Program with my teachers, Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman, to help support patients, loved ones, doctors and nurses, just like I promised Stephan I would do.”
The Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Programme assists hospitals in NYC, providing them with Yogis and facilities for case of the mind as well as the body. The initiative was so successful that Karan has since expanded, adding a fashion line and a range of five boutique outlets, in which she sells artisan products from Haiti and around the globe. With a percentage of the profits going back to relief funds and other charitable outlets, it seems that Karan really has found the perfect balance between business and philanthropy.