Donna Karan is finding her digital zen.
The designer has spent almost a decade building up Urban Zen, a brand and foundation specializing in educational, health and employment issues in developing countries and the U.S. But now she’s ready to turn the venture into an omnichannel business with an e-commerce component that recently soft-launched.
Until now, the collection – which the designer refers to as a “philosophy of living” – was sold only through a handful of specialty stores and the brand’s own doors in Aspen, Colo., Sag Harbor, N.Y., and Manhattan’s West Village. While a Web site detailing the charitable endeavors of the Urban Zen Foundation has been up and running for years, this is the first time urbanzen.com has sold the brand’s full range of apparel, accessories, jewelry, home decor and beauty items.
Karan told WWD that in the next two to three years she plans to not only grow the business online, but add retail doors and expand the product range. A yoga line will roll out in the fall.
The Web site will pull together all facets of the brand.
“This is [our] digital flagship and a key component of the company’s growth strategy,” she said. “It’s a new way of shopping [for the brand] but I don’t want to lose what is really important – the feel and touch and sensuality of it. That’s what scares me [about] online but what we’ve done online is to show clothes and their sensuality.”
Urban Zen is a stand-alone company owned by Karan herself. The collection features seasonless basics in a neutral color palette and corresponding jewelry, accessories and home decor handmade by artisans employed by Urban Zen. Many of the goods are made in Haiti, Thailand and Bali. This week, the company will open a vocational educational center in Port-au-Prince to better train artisans in the area.
Urban Zen sells pieces like the black leather and metal Kasik Braided Collar, which retails for $595 and features the artisan alongside each piece.
Part of the money made goes back into the company’s philanthropic efforts. For instance, 10 percent of the proceeds from a necklace designed in partnership with Haitian artisan Pascale Théard goes to support the foundation’s efforts in Haiti.