What is it like to have a conversation with the globally acclaimed designer, Donna Karan? Eye-opening, educational, heartwarming, and inspiring.

Rachel Shechtman, Founder of STORY, hosted the conversation and interview with Donna Karan during this month’s “GOOD” story. Find out more about STORY here. The evening’s conversation highlighted conscious commerce, soulful living, the Urban Zen Foundation, healthcare, and fashion. Here were our top takeaways and story highlights from the event.

Getting Personal –

Awareness is crucial to connecting and creating change
During the AIDS epidemic in the 1980’s, many people were private about this issue. At the time, Donna Karan realized she was losing friends and decided she needed to do something about it. She launched Seventh on Sale, which raised 4.5 million dollars for AIDS awareness.

Having Deep Discussions Through Fashion
Donna Karan, while working in her stores, remembered listening to the conversations being held within the dressing rooms. She heard a lot of “my Mother has…” or “my Father has…” She was in tune to the deep discussions about what was going on in the inside. This led her to envision making commerce more meaningful and using it as a way to engage others and bring them together.

When Sickness Hits Close To Home
When her husband became diagnosed with cancer, in order to help him, she incorporated yoga and essential oils into his care. During this time, she realized that others needed this kind of care, especially as preventive care.

Creating Change Through Health – 

Put Care Back into Healthcare
She touched on today’s healthcare that focuses on fixing the problems after one gets sick, but she raised the question, “What if we focused on preventative care?” With this realization, she dove into the world of Healthcare in an effort to change lives. This led to the development of the Urban Zen Foundation.

The Urban Zen Foundation
The focus behind the Urban Zen Foundation is “to change the current healthcare paradigm to include integrative medicine and promote patient advocacy. They treat the patient with the same passion they treat the disease by combining western science with nutrition, yoga and eastern healing practices.”

The UZF “creates, connects and collaborates to raise awareness and inspire change in the areas of well-being, preserving cultures and empowering children. They design forums, partner with existing organizations and bring together experts to define solutions and implement action.”

On Fashion –

Donna Karan’s Advice to Designers and Conscious Fashion
There were countless aspiring designers in the audience, and so it was only natural to seek Donna Karan’s top advice on working as a designer.

1. To work at a retail store, wear your clothes, and only make pieces that you would wear
2. To work for a designer
3. To do community service and travel the world

As for the discussions surrounding conscious fashion, Donna Karan,  known for sourcing with transparency and ethical production, understands the many obstacles associated with designing ethically. She said, “It’s tough, which is why the dialogue is so important.” Her advice to everyone was – take it one step at a time. She touched on how the conscious movement and market is there, and how designers are selling to an educated group where individuals are engaging in the topic of conscious commerce.  Lastly, people desire fashion that has meaning. Donna Karan expressed that when we choose items because it makes a difference in someone else’s life, this is soulful living.

How to convince buyers they should buy things that give back
A member of the audience asked this question, and Donna Karan’s playful and honest response was “I can drink to that”! Her best advice to designers is to focus on building a community around your brand, collaborate with a mass of group of people, and work with community to make a larger statement. She expressed that it can’t just be about what you are doing, but about how and what the community is doing.

Her Inspiration – 

Donna’s Favorite Place in the World.
Bali. The men and women in Bali love and embrace their culture. While many countries try to adapt to America’s culture, Bali embraces their own creativity. For a creative individual such as Donna, the artistry in Bali is inspiring.

Final Thoughts In One Sentence
“If there is a problem in the world, then there is a solution.”

Discover More This conversation and interview was made possible by the team at STORY. For the month of May STORY is telling a “Good” story. Discover all of their amazing conscious brands being featured by hopping over to 144 10th Ave at 19th street. Note: this is the last weekend that Good story will be open.

Learn + Connect
Visit The Urban Zen Foundation
Connect via FacebookTwitter, and Instagram

From the Editor
At Conscious, we are inspired by remarkable people, and so we set out to tell stories that highlight real human interactions and human dignity. You can read more stories like this when you pick up your copy of Conscious Magazine. Subscribe today via our Conscious Shop and sign-up for Conscious Updates.

Photo credit: Drew Innis