Donna Karan talks about her new Urban Zen store in Los Angeles and why she loves to practice meditation and yoga daily.
Donna Karan has been a force to be reckoned with in the fashion industry for decades, but now with her latest endeavor she stands for so much more than just fashion. Urban Zen, her luxury lifestyle brand, is a company with a purpose. It combines retail and philanthropy, celebrates wellness and global artisans, and aims to inspire change in the world. Now thanks to her recently opened West Hollywood boutique (9045 Nemo St., West Hollywood, 424-335-0655), Angelenos will get a taste of what it means to live an Urban Zen life just like the beloved designer.
We caught up with Karan to learn more about the store, her favorite LA hang outs, and how she practices wellness every single day.
Tell us about your new West Hollywood store. What can shoppers expect? DONNA KARAN: It’s a lifestyle as much as it is a store. The Urban Zen world and philosophy come together in one place: a comfortable, welcoming atmosphere that feels good to be in and stay awhile; a community spirit with rotating exhibits, inspiring wellness speakers and local conscious-raising events; a showcase for artisan products from around the world; and the Urban Zen brand of modern, seasonless, and timeless wardrobe pieces and accessories.
What inspired the store’s design? DK: I design everything as if it’s my home. This store is light, open, off-the-beaten track, and welcoming. There’s an immediate flow of indoor to outdoor—a gorgeous garden, beautiful trees, and we even have a kitchen. It’s just like the upstairs of our loft in Greenwich Village, where everyone always asks why I don’t move in there. The same thing is happening here.
What drew you to this particular space? DK: Everything I’ve just described. I’ve wanted an Urban Zen home in LA for the longest time, but it had to be perfect. This, to my mind, is perfect. It’s everything I’ve been looking for—intimate, open, and a bit mysterious.
Why was it important for you to include a kitchen in the space? DK: Maybe it’s the Jewish mother in me, but I’m a nurturer. I can’t help it. I want to nurture my consumer’s mind, body, and spirit. Urban Zen has a wellness component born from when my husband Stephan was sick. It’s an essential part of the Urban Zen equation. Wellness is how we stay healthy and prevent disease. By having this kitchen and serving what we do, we are advocating a lifestyle that I passionately believe in.
You mentioned there will be lots of in-store events. Tell us about that. DK: We want this to have a salon atmosphere, were there is always something going on, whether it’s a wellness lecture, a book party, a yoga [class] happening, an educational forum of some sort, and of course, an occasional fashion show. Whatever we do, it’s important that it be community-minded and inspired. This is very much an LA store.
What does “wellness” mean to you? DK: Wellness is when everything is in balance, mind, body, and spirit. When everything is aligned as it should be, it makes it very difficult for disease to set in.
What wellness habits do you practice regularly? DK: I try to eat well—soups, salads, and green juices. I meditate and practice yoga daily. I try to spend some time in nature and breathe in the beauty and stillness. Like I said, I see wellness as a matter of mind, body, and spirit, so you need to address all three.
You’ve been practicing yoga for many years. How has it transformed your life? DK: Yoga gives me so much. It’s the calm in the chaos. Not only is it meditative, but it’s a great exercise, requiring balance, flexibility, and strength. It also gives me stillness within. I have a mind that is always jumping from one thing to the next. When I’m on my mat, I surrender to the teacher and the pose at hand. I can’t tell you the kind of peace that gives me.
As a regular meditator, what’s your advice for meditation beginners? DK: Sit in a comfortable, quiet spot. Close your eyes and concentrate on your breathing or create a mantra that you repeat over and over. Just don’t get caught up in your thoughts, which is the hardest thing to do when you’re beginning. That’s why you focus on your breathing. It keeps you in the here and now.
What are your tips for staying calm in the chaos that is our busy, stress-filled daily lives? DK: Give yourself a few minutes that are yours and yours alone. I do that with yoga, and also with meditation, which I do whenever I can, even if it’s sitting in the backseat of a car between appointments. A few minutes of quiet can make a world of difference. Schedule the time in if you have to, but don’t get so swept up in your day that you forget to give back to yourself.
What are your favorite places to visit when you’re in Los Angeles? DK: Where to begin? I love Malibu, Nobu on the water during sunset, looking at nature, the water, the trees, the mountains my friends’ homes. I love the hills of Beverly Hills and the new downtown district. I love, love, love driving top down with a view of the water. I love that I’m still discovering all I don't know—LA’s art, its yoga life, and appreciation for integrated therapy. I love LA’s love of juices and salads.