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Donna Karan: Zen Mistress

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Starting this month, a portion of the proceeds from Donna Karan’s Urban Zen boutique in the West Village will be used to support integrative medical programs on the cancer floor of Beth Israel hospital. Sarah Bernard spoke with the designer about remaking the city into an epicenter of calm.

How did your Urban Zen initiative begin?
I dreamt about this thirteen years ago. I was living in New York but I was also constantly leaving New York. And I thought, There’s a problem here. But it’s not the city, it’s the people. Chaos is a part of life, but there are many tools you can use to handle chaos.

Are we talking yoga mats on every corner?
Not at all. It’s much more subtle. If you’re in the middle of the garment center, look at the sun setting on the river—it’s extraordinary.

What role does fashion play in this?
In my dream environment, it’s all about the C words: cashmere, cotton, and candles, which breed compassion and care. Everything in Urban Zen has to have a soul.

You’re also taking the program into hospitals?
Yes. From the moment someone finds out they have cancer, they’ll be guided to an Urban Zen navigator to provide some calm in the storm. We’re going to help them nutritionally. We just did a yoga seminar for the nurses [at Beth Israel]. Oh God, it was fantastic.


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