Donna Karan has had safari on the brain for some time, as evidenced in her latest Urban Zen spring collection that lands in stores this month. While visiting her West Hollywood store, Karan talked excitedly about her upcoming African sojourn, which will be her fourth visit to the continent. But she was also eager to share news of her newest Urban Zen store, opening next month in Sag Harbor, N.Y., which will combine retail with a restaurant run in partnership with her daughter Gabby.
“It’s going to be bigger, and in a new location,” she said of the venture, which will open the week before Memorial Day. She skipped back to her trip, which will take her to Kenya to speak at a private summit with her Urban Zen cofounders; Tanzania; Rwanda, and her favorite African country, Ethiopia.
“It’s unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. Definitely my favorite place. You can’t see colors and people like this anywhere else,” she said, scrolling through photos on her iPhone, some of which she took herself on her last trip there, and others taken by her traveling companion Calvin Klein. “Calvin just went crazy there, it was like models at a photo shoot for him,” she said, showing some of his magazine-worthy shots capturing the vibrant woven garments and clay lip plates worn by the natives.
Many of the fashion and home accessories in Urban Zen are made by artisans in Africa, as well as Haiti, Papua New Guinea and Uruguay. As always, they were part of the collection, and also as always, Karan was her own best model, wearing two jackets layered on top of each other and a black leather necklace. “I keep putting on one piece and taking off another, and I lose track of where I left them,” she said as she tried to model her first and second deliveries, as well as style her mannequins and other friends in the store.
She noted that she’ll be upping the presence of Urban Zen Integrated Therapists in her New York and Los Angeles locations because “people really need the help. Designers most of all because they are so stressed out before and after their shows.”
It seems surprising that having been to Africa three times, Karan has never been to Santa Fe, N.M. with her Urban Zen team, but they’ll be making their first trip there to curate a show for Art Santa Fe, the annual contemporary art show held in July, incorporating some of the Urban Zen artisans. As for what to wear on safari — or in the desert — she recommended her Urban Zen suede jump dress and jumpsuit, a belt bag, and “boots, boots and more boots.”