Fashion icon and humanitarian Donna Karan’s desire to address people, not just dress them, led the designer to establish The Urban Zen Foundation in 2007. Having traveled the world for inspiration, this lifelong yogi, mother and grandmother is dedicated to adding the missing link – mind, body and spirit – to healthcare and education, while preserving and learning from the wisdom of ancient culture. Urban Zen embraces a holistic ‘past, present and future’ approach to philanthropy, using creativity, connection and collaboration to achieve its goals. Forever inspired by the philosophies of her late husband, Stephan Weiss, Karan has incorporated his “connecting the dots” art theory into her philanthropic approach. At Urban Zen, Karan embodies this connecting the dots philosophy through her partnerships with established organizations such as the Clinton Foundation, Grief and Nomad Two Worlds. In fact, the Clinton Global Initiative was Karan’s inspiration for Urban Zen to bring like-minded people together in a place and space – the Urban Zen Center – to affect change with forums and lectures, as well as educational and fundraising exhibits. These events serve as a platform for connecting and collaborating with aligned organizations such as the David Lynch Foundation, NASA, V-Day, Bent on Learning and the Acumen Fund.
Inspired by the illness of her husband Stephan Weiss, as well as close friends suffering with disease, Karan founded the groundbreaking Urban Zen Integrative Therapy (UZIT) Program, which integrates eastern healing modalities with western science, with over 100 certified therapists working today. The evolution of the UZIT Program has lead to esteemed partnerships with UCLA, Beth Israel Medical Center, Kent State University and YogaWorks. For Karan, Haiti is where Urban Zen’s health, education and cultural initiatives come together. After its 2010 earthquake, Urban Zen launched Hope, Help & Relief Haiti in collaboration with leaders in music, fashion, film, finance and art. Today, Karan works tirelessly alongside The Clinton Global Initiative to develop and support sustainable opportunities in Haiti by bringing artisan products to a global market.
For Karan, her vision lies in the union of philanthropy and commerce, an idea she first cultivated through Seventh on Sale, the CFDA AIDS benefit, as well as Kids for Kids carnival for Pediatric AIDS, and Super Saturday, the annual Hamptons tag sale, Donna founded with Liz Tilberis to benefit Ovarian Cancer Research Fund. Similarly, Urban Zen is in part supported by the Urban Zen brand and stores, where you will find artisan objects of desire and cultural treasures, as well as the Karan-designed Urban Zen label of clothing and exclusive handmade Balinese furniture. For every problem, says Karan, there is a creative solution – especially when it comes to the issues that touch us all.