NEW YORK — For the first time in decades, Donna Karan isn't designing a collection — or two — for a runway show at New York Fashion Week. But's she got plenty going on.
As part of her fashion week celebrations, the designer opened her Urban Zen shop and studio in the West Village to display a wide array of clothing, jewelry, furniture and accessories made by artisans from around the world as well as striking artwork by Italian artist and jewelry designer Grazia Fortuna Ward.
The space, once the sculpture studio of Karan's deceased husband, is one of the loveliest in New York, with ample room for one-of-a-kind products from Haiti, Bali and Africa, including hand-made six-foot-long chandeliers, oversized teak dining tables and vases made from dried tobacco leaves.
"Every time I look around here, something else talks to me, which is so beautiful and what I love about it," Karan said.
A Houston location?
As Karan transitions away from her namesake brand, which owner LVMH suspended, she is pouring her energies into Urban Zen, with a new website and plans for expansion. A representative says that an Urban Zen pop-up shop in Aspen was a big hit among Texans summering in the Colorado town, so they are eyeing Houston as a location for a new store.
"For me it's about life, it's about lifestyle, it's about showing what's in fashion to a whole other world," Karan said. "Fashion is not only about fashion, it's much deeper than that. And a lot of the work that we do is about helping other people, particularly in Haiti. Everything here is part of our philanthropic conscious awareness of how to help another country and its artisans. Instead of giving them money, you can give them projects to do and make their own livings and develop from there."
And Karan's many fans can find an array of her signature looks, including oversized tweed sweaters and coats, crepe jodhpurs, suede flight suits and draped dresses, along with handcrafted artisan jewelry, bags, belts, scarves and hand and leg warmers.
A portion of the sales go to the Urban Zen Foundation, a non-profit that supports such projects as a vocational school for artisans in Haiti established with the Parsons School Of Design, "so that's very exciting," she said.
On to Bergdorf's
After the party ended, Karan raced to Bergdorf Goodman to attend a dinner for Ellen Degeneres, who has a pop-up shop featuring the talk show host's foray into fashion with a gender neutral clothing line. And Karan will be front and center for the debut of new DKNY designers Dao-Yi Chow and Maxwell Osborne. (It was announced last winter that the creators of the hot Public School brand would take over the reins of designing the DKNY brand from Karan.)
Freed from the commitments of designing two collections at each fashion week, Karan is dedicated to the Urban Zen future. "This is what I'm doing," she said.
"This takes a lot of time and a lot of energy. It's something that is very close to my heart. It's really preserving the soul of artisans but taking them to the next dimension. It's bringing the two worlds together. It's respecting the cultures of the worlds before we lose them. Everything is becoming androgynous. It's finding the artisans, the wonderment that happens."