Fashionable Life: The Zen of Donna Karan

by Editorial

A fashion icon fuses creativity into her designs and philanthropy.
By Tyler Sullivan

The legendary designer Donna Karan spoke at a luncheon in her honor at the Embassy of France. Photo by John Arundel.

Speaking recently as the guest of honor at a reception at the Embassy of France, designer Donna Karan proved that creativity can be applied to both fashion and philanthropy. Speaking onstage with longtime friend and Neiman Marcus Fashion Director Ken Downing, Karan’s message was clear, “It is about creativity … we sit here today and celebrate creating.” It is our job to “shift our focus from me to we.”

She’s doing just that via her Urban Zen Foundation, which creates, connects and collaborates to raise awareness and inspire change in the areas of well-being, preserving cultures and empowering children in mind, body and spirit. Current projects include promoting the work of artisans in Haiti.

Maureen Dwyer, executive director of the Sitar Arts Center, which was the beneficiary of the event, echoed Karan’s take on creativity, “Each and every child born is gifted and they should have the inalienable right to discover those gifts and to develop their gifts,” Dwyer explained. Sitar is a community arts organization offering music, dance, drama, writing and visual arts programs to residents of the Adams Morgan neighborhood.

Recalling her own education, Karan said, “I didn’t graduate college; school was very difficult for me.” She explained that it was through creativity that Karan established her own success – creating the DKNY empire, and more recently, her founding and fostering the Urban Zen Foundation.

Not all aspects of the luncheon were so serious – a runway presentation of the Karan’s Resort and Winter Collections preceded her speech and Karan narrated the presentation with her own fashion advice, “If you can’t sleep in it, it’s not worth it,” she said.

“Did I come here to dress you? Absolutely.  Did I come here to address you? Absolutely. Each one of us is a creative power,” Karan concluded. “To open our hearts and souls needs to be put on an educational level … To me the two worlds don’t separate each other, the two work hand in hand. Dressing and addressing. I can’t live one without the other.”

Karan spoke onstage with her longtime friend, Neiman Marcus Fashion Director Ken Downing (R) and Maureen Dwyer, executive director of the Sitar Arts Center. Photo by John Arundel.

Neiman Marcus Fashion Director Ken Downing's tone stole the crowd away into an intimate setting, creating laughter and sincere conversation. Photo by John Arundel.

BrandLinkDC's Barbara Martin and Jayne Sandman with Donna Karan. Photo by John Arundel.

Amanda Polk and Cindy Jones at the Donna Karan fashion presentation. Photo by John Arundel.

Martha Slagle, vice president and general manager of Neiman Marcus at Mazza Gallery; Corcoran Ball Chair Tammie Collins and Marjorie Muscarella of Macy's Metro Center at the Donna Karan presentation. Photo by John Arundel.

Jing Vivatrat and Jami Van at the Donna Karan fashion presentation. Photo by John Arundel.

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