Donna Karan has brought Urban Zen to West Hollywood.
This story first appeared in the November 19, 2008 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
The designer last month opened the first West Coast version of her philanthropic retail concept on a trendy stretch of Robertson Boulevard, near Melrose Avenue.
The 1,400-square-foot store took just a few weeks to remodel. Karan’s goal is to find and use spaces that don’t require conversion, simply redecoration. The walls of the open, rectangular space are gray and the ceiling is black, with two skylights. The back of the store is a tree-lined courtyard with wooden benches and a rock garden, with Indian bells hanging from the trees and decorative wooden temple doors lining parts of the enclosed outdoor space.
“It’s very nomadic in feeling; it’s not just about clothes and objects of desire,” Karan said, surveying the garden. “The goal is to bring calm to the chaos of everyday life, and each store is completely different because we want to preserve the character of the spaces. That’s what this is supposed to be, a serene space you’d almost not know was back here.”
Urban Zen sells a mix of specially designed Urban Zen clothes, along with apparel from other designers, jewelry, art objects and books devoted to health and healing.
The merchandise in the West Hollywood store includes a leather cuff-style bracelet for $275, a red cashmere dress for $1,295 and a woven jacket for $1,795. Despite the high price points and crippled economy, Karan said she thinks the day-to-night, easy and loose-fitting, draped styles of the Urban Zen line will catch on with the L.A. set. Profits will be donated to the Urban Zen Foundation.
Karan launched Urban Zen on Greenwich Street in Manhattan last year, along with a unit in Sag Harbor, N.Y., and now has three of the stores. The concept promotes programs of organic nutrition, education, restorative yoga and alternative healing therapies. The goal is to integrate Eastern and Western traditions, to generate local community involvement and to change approaches to treating disease.
The designer, who said she eventually wants to open an Urban Zen wellness center — for teaching , lectures and conferences — in Los Angeles, got started on the concept after the deaths, from cancer, of her husband Stephan Weiss and best friend, photographer Lynn Kohlman. Kohlman’s works hang throughout the West Hollywood space, alongside furniture and art objects from Kenya, Bali and India.
“This is my passion,” Karan said. “Of course the economy was a concern — how do you open a store in the midst of all this? But I think that’s part of the whole Urban Zen concept at its core, and embracing current, conscious issues.”