NEW YORK — Donna Karan’s special bond with her late husband Stephan Weiss is the stuff of fashion legends.
This story first appeared in the June 6, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
Now, 10 years after his death, the designer has created the Urban Zen Stephan Weiss Apple Awards to honor his memory and celebrate the life of the artist and sculptor. The first set of honorees, to be feted at her Stephan Weiss Studio on Thursday, are President Clinton for preservation of culture, Dr. Mehmet Oz for health care and Courtney Ross for education.
Health care, education and the preservation of culture are the cornerstones of the Urban Zen Foundation, which Karan founded in 2007.
Karan cited several factors as motivations to launch the awards, from June 10 marking 10 years since Weiss passed away to his Apple sculpture sitting a few blocks away on the Hudson River and the 9/11 attacks, which also happened a decade ago. “I thought, ‘What better tribute can I make to why we’re all here at Urban Zen than presenting the Apple Award?’” she said. “I always knew I wanted to do something on June 10 in his honor, so we decided to give the Apple Award to people who have really been the inspiration for Urban Zen.”
Clinton, she added, has been a key inspiration in her work. Karan has known the president since designing the suit he wore for his first inauguration, and became more acquainted with him through the Clinton Initiative and her humanitarian work in Haiti. “For me, Bill Clinton encapsulates the true meaning of what Urban Zen is about, as a leader, a visionary and a force,” Karan said. “It’s about connecting the dots. Stephan’s whole method was to put dots on a piece of paper and connect them, and I truly think that is what President Clinton does.”
She added that the same goes for Oz and Ross, who, in the fields of health care and education, have served as inspirations to Karan’s Urban Zen programs.
This is the first fund-raiser to exclusively benefit Urban Zen, and the night will kick off with cocktails and an auction followed by a dinner and awards ceremony. Karan drummed up an impressive host committee, which includes Barbra Streisand, Calvin Klein, Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, Goldie Hawn, Bruce and Emma Willis, Mary J. Blige, Keith Richards and Patti Hansen, Andre Balazs, Kenneth Cole, Susan Sarandon, Sting and Trudie Styler and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand. Sarah Jessica Parker, Uma Thurman, Michael Douglas, Martha Stewart, Russell Simmons, Kelly Klein and Betsey Johnson are also expected.
Karan said the awards are kicking of a series of events honoring Weiss. They include a candle-lit ceremony around the Apple sculpture on Sept. 11; the launch of the first exhibition around Weiss’ work, and a book about him that she is putting together called “Journey of a Man.”