BY: HAL RUBENSTEIN
She is one of the legendary Big 3 of American fashion and the only woman. But it is a name almost everyone who has ever walked into a fitting room knows - Donna Karan. From the moment she launched her first collection in 1985, she set out to change the way women dressed and saw themselves forever. Donna wasn’t a size 0, so she designed clothes for herself and the millions of other women who had bodies you could recognize in the real world. And because she has always worked, she designed for women like herself, who didn’t have three hours to get dressed, and had no desire to dress like a man in order to succeed in business. In fact, her most famous advertising campaign called “In Women We Trust” imagined America’s first female President. That was 1992. And we’re still not there. Nevertheless, Donna Karan is always moving forward, with a new line of astoundingly versatile, incredibly sensual clothes. Everything with the label in it that says Urban Zen is as calming as a meditation, fits like second skin and feels so soothing it’s as if you keep giving yourself a hug.
HR: Why did you call your new company Urban Zen?
DK: Urban Zen was created because I wanted to find, “Calm in the chaos.” The world is tense, filled with stress and conflict. I wanted to create a community of consciousness and change that was about the preservation of cultures, about the connection between body and spirit, health and awareness, feeling good about yourself and your life. The clothes I design at Urban Zen are what you wear on the outside, when you feel good about yourself on the inside.
HR: The name is new but these clothes and this attitude are in harmony with what made the Donna Karan brand so revolutionary when you began 40 years ago, starting with your groundbreaking collection “7 Easy Pieces.”
DK: Your clothes should be an effortless extension of the way you live. I was always into Yoga and centering the body. So, I love clothes and fabric that stretch and move, and are adaptable to almost any situation. I don’t want to change my look all day long. And I love fabrics that feel amazing on me, like cashmere and silk, that have no weight and have movement. These clothes make you feel free or want to be free. That why I see Urban Zen as both dressing and “addressing" to reflect what’s inside.
Clothes and jewelry are not basic if they become part of your life. We share the same philosophy - when you make it personal, then they take on a history, they take on a soul.
- Donna Karan
HR: In a way, you are going back to your basics.
DK: Only because it works. And I don’t see them as basics. I see them as essentials. I don’t agree with the current methodology of fashion today. We send clothes down a runway and then you can’t get them for another six months. Or then there’s fast fashion that you buy, play with then throw away. What’s the point of either of those. How do clothes become part of you? I want to buy the clothes I want to wear right now.
I want to buy the accessories and the jewelry that goes with it and keep it with me forever. I have pieces of jewelry that I showed with my first collection that I wear all the time. Gold, diamonds, silver. It will last forever. And so will my favorite clothes because I made them to last.
HR: What does today’s shopper need to be reminded of?
DK: Stop buying things because they look good when you post them on Instagram. Everything I own I wear because it’s what I need. Because I don’t want it to overpower my life. I want to be comfortable with everything I am wearing It doesn’t matter where I am going.
My clothes and accessories work for me every day, and make me feel good every day, and look good to others as well because they reveal to people who I am and what’s in my heart.
HR: The jumpsuits, the scarves, the tops, the skirts all seem to interconnect - in the same way fine jewelry is designed at Gabriel & Co.
DK: That’s what a wardrobe, your wardrobe is supposed to do. Clothes and jewelry are not basic if they become part of your life.
We share the same philosophy - when you make it personal, then they take on a history, they take on a soul. You and what you wear become inseparable with how you feel and who you are. And that’s when you start looking brilliant.