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Beyond the Catwalk: The Philanthropic Side of Donna Karan

Jeffrey Martin

The Urban Zen Foundation is Donna Karan's contribution to a better world.

A statue holding a torch, the loud, undaunted and noisy yellow taxis, that inexplicable perpetual smoke coming out from beneath the street grills and an unstoppable multitude of women, too often enveloped in an aura of urban chic. That was my attempt to summarize a verbal portrait of a city that has been the inexhaustible source of inspiration for Donna Karan. The great American designer completely identifies with New York City, the place where she was born, where she has spent all her life, and where she has been dressing women for a long time.

Donna Karan

Under the luxury labels, Donna Karan and DKNY, the designer has created iconic ready-to-wear-collections characterized by vivid, contemporary and comfortable clothes. Her imminent fall/winter 2013 season celebrates, once more, the natural simplicity of elegance.

Whit the same spirit and strength that define her aesthetics, the woman with one of the most polarizing smiles in the fashion universe, assumes her commitment to the practice of philanthropy through her Urban Zen Foundation.

The central objective of this nonprofit organization, directed by Karan, is to call everyone’s attention and raise awareness of the wellbeing, health, and preservation of indigenous cultures around the world, and to improve the conditions and quality of life of children in need, living in places where social justice is the exception, rather than the norm.

Donna Karan

Some of the fundraising initiatives developed by the New York-based group are the possibility of donating through their website (, annual gala events for VIP guests, and international conferences where experts can propose viable solutions to the problems that affect the neediest amongst us.

Urban Zen foundation and Donna Karan are forever associated with the life and death of artist Stephan Weiss, her partner for more than three decades. According to Karan, “art is a field of energy unified by points which are all human beings. It is, therefore, essential that when looking for solutions to significant problems, all living things should be related,” said the designer during a recent interview in Miami to explain the essence of her humanistic initiative.

Donna Karan dedicated the book Stephan Weiss: Connecting the Dots, to her beloved Weiss, and part of the proceeds from its sale are donated to the Urban Zen Foundation. “Welfare lies in nobility of the soul and in good health,” said Karan. “That is our aim”. For that and for everything else, congratulations!

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