A fashion icon, Donna Karan is known for her accomplishments in the fashion industry. She has dressed modern women for nearly four decades. She has built enduring companies that have shaped fashion, design, and aesthetics for several generations. She has received numerous awards and honors for her fashion achievements such as the Womenswear Designer of the Year (1996, 1990), and the Lifetime Achievement Award CFDA (2004). Over ten years ago Karan, a passionate philanthropist, established Seventh on Sale and Super Saturday, two landmark fundraising events that raised millions of dollars for AIDS awareness and Cancer Research.
Redesigning Health Care
Donna Karan’s commitment to philanthropy and global healing lead her to found the Urban Zen Foundation, an organization that brings together like-minded people and organizations to define solutions and implement action in the areas of well-being; empowering children; and preserving culture.
In 2007, to launch the groundbreaking Urban Zen Well-Being Initiative, Karan and Urban Zen hosted a 10-day Well-Being Forum at the Stephan Weiss Studio in downtown New York City. This event brought together health care leaders and grass roots practitioners from around the country to dialogue on ways to co-create the health care of the future.
Due to the overwhelming response to this event, over the next year, Karan and leading yoga teachers, Rodney Yee and Colleen Saidman Yee developed the pilot Urban Zen Integrative Therapist (UZIT) Outreach and Training Program at Beth Israel Medical Center, which launched in March 2008. This program trains integrative therapists to offer a blend of five safe therapies to support people, family, and caregivers in hospital and wellness settings. So far, ninety-six participants have been trained, and are now entering their clinical rotation cycles at Beth Israel and other major New York area hospitals. Research currently under way will document the results of this pioneering program. Karan is also redesigning a special environment within the hospital setting to assure a supportive haven for people and their caregivers in times of illness and stress.
In recognition of her groundbreaking work in transforming health care, the Phillips Beth Israel School of Nursing awarded Donna Karan an honorary nursing degree on June 2, 2009.
A Wide Reaching Commitment
Other Urban Zen activities have included:
• Sponsoring the 2009 Nutrition Speaker Series
• Hosting a forum with the Dali Lama supporting Tibet Nobulingka Institute to preserve Tibetan Culture
• Participation in V-Day at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans
• Conducting a workshop on Death and Dying with the Village Zendo
• Supporting Spirituality for Kids (SFK) a global campaign undertaken by an educational nonprofit organization
• Hosting special UZIT programs at Yoga Journal conferences in Boston, San Francisco, New York, and Estes Park, Colorado
While still actively engaged in designing, Karan is now channeling much of her time and energy toward philanthropy through the Urban Zen Foundation. And, through the sale of merchandise at the Urban Zen stores, Donna has merged commerce with philanthropy, a new model in retail, by donating a portion of sales to financially support the works of the foundation.