INSIDE: Urban Zen

26th April, 2012

It was such an honor to shoot this month’s fashion feature at the Stephan Weiss Studio, home base for the Urban Zen Foundation, and I can’t resist telling you a little more about this special place and its honorable ambitions.The location itself is the former studio of Donna Karan‘s late husband, Stephan Weiss, whose legacy is celebrated in the diverse collection of the artist’s sculptures and paintings lovingly scattered throughout. In between are works by Haitian craftspeople like Jean Paul Sylvaince and Yvette Celestin, who create the tobacco leaf vases that are sold in the just-next-door Urban Zen store, where they sit next to hand-hewn horn jewelry and exquisite leather goods. 100% of the profits from these pieces go back to Haiti,  making them but one example of the ways in which Karan and her team have empowered the Haitian people to rebuild their personal economies and preserve their cultural legacy, in the wake of recent tragedy and the growing face of globalization.No stranger to sadness herself, Karan was her husband’s biggest advocate during his struggle with cancer, and after his passing her commitment to promoting holistic healthcare remained undiminished. Inspired by this deeply-realized passion, she founded Urban Zen in 2008 ~ but its objectives really coalesced in response to the tragic 2010 earthquake that devastated Haiti.  Co-founding Hope, Help & Rebuild Haiti, Karan was heavily active in getting food, water, and medical care to the Haitian people at the height of the crisis. And even as conditions improved, Karan’s dedication to the project deepened.Today, the foundation’s objectives are focused on three goals: supporting and co-piloting programs that treat the well-being of patients (through nutrition, yoga, and eastern healing methods) with the same zeal with which western medicine treats the specific disease; collaborating with children’s programs to optimize spiritual, physical, and emotional growth; and preserving cultures by finding sustainable means to celebrate their creativity and craftsmanship in an ever more industrialized world.Happily, commerce and consciousness come together in Karan’s Urban Zen stores (in New York, Sag Harbor and Los Angeles) ~ the best place to immerse yourself in the brand’s philosophy and aesthetic. Besides the aforementioned Haitian accessories, the shops are the exclusive source for the designer’s Urban Zen clothing line ~ a delicious, seasonless, sumptuous assortment of clothes for the modern, globe-trotting woman. They’re the kind of pieces you want to wear everywhere ~ to work, to yoga, to dinner parties and on absolutely every plane ride. Rather apt for a woman juggling multiple businesses and trying to save the world at the same time!

If you’d like to learn more about Urban Zen’s empowering partnerships with Haitian artisans, I urge you to watch THIS VIDEO.

|CLICK HERE| to revisit the fashion story we shot in this inspiring space.

  • Alison Ryncarz

    Sounds incredible! Donna Karan is an inspiration – I will definitely have to check out Urban Zen. And you have such a gift for writing – your blog posts are always so eloquent! 


      I agree. It’s always a great experience reading you!
      btw this first shoe is absolutely amazing!

  • SIA

    I love this movement! We need more of this.. <3

  • Coline

    Ooh yay! This is really cool and exciting! And i love the shoes up top!

  • Lilylovelock

    This space is perfection…full of colour and texture . Karen sounds like such and incredible woman, who really does seems to have an endless commitment to helping various causes, she truly is an inspiration. 


  • Where can I get those vases made from leaf?

    • 705

      From Urban Zen NYC 212 206 3999

  • What a beautiful space. And wow, that last photo is powerful!

  • Doll house Boutique Sydney

    daughter and I ordered a dress from Doll House which was to be  custom
    made.  I placed the order on a Monday and was surprised to get a
    phone call the following Monday to say the dress had arrived it only took eight
    8 days.  I took the dress home and when I put the dress on my
    daughter, I realised that had just altered the dress (in store) and found pins
    still in the side seams.  I was so disgusted with their lie – when
    confronted they would not talk to me or acknowledge what they had
    done.  To all you mum’s out there DON’T BUY FROM DOLL HOUSE.

  • wow!!! amazing place!! love it!

  • Mia Dd

    Amazing photos! 😀

    With love,Mia 

  • Clau

    wow!!!! super location…

  • SR

    Thanks so much for sharing more about this worthy project. Now plan to stop by one of her shops when in NYC this summer… 

  • Nosweatsallowed
  • Gorgeous photos! The space is totally inspiring and the shoe in the first picture is a fun print too. Well written blog =)

  • Wow what an amazing space. 

  • Anonymous

    Incredible cause, and beautiful pieces. 

  • Ketty Diani

    what a beautiful space !obssesed! 

  • greenieweenie

    I read about her project in Vogue. I’m skeptical—I’ve been going to Haiti for a long time and my family members are adopted from there. I hate seeing celebrities come and go (Sean Penn…ugh! You should SEE what his site in Petionville looks like! Not award-winning, I’ll tell you that). But I’m so happy to see her work gets attention AND focuses on Haitian artisans/trade rather than aid. I’m so glad you posted about this!

  • Fantastic. I love it when inspiration comes through people and helps others in need. A beautiful and worthy cause. 

  • The interior is beautiful.  The tobacco leaf baskets mixed with sculptures is stunning.  The exterior is filled with nature’s beauty.  This seems like such a good project.  I like reading about people trying to make things better in this world.

  • Marina Petrova

    Awesome photos! I love first photo!

  • BrancoSempreBranco

    The photos are really beautiful, texture of the piaces and the colours… all amazing.
    Good Cause.


  • BrancoSempreBranco

    The photos are beautiful. The pieces are amazing, the texture and the colours…all really beautiful.
    Good Cause.


  • Fantastic post  – so glad I came across this this morning! Karen is inspiring and the photos and styling are stunning. In love with how the clothing/art/interior merge and work together seamlessly.

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TheGlamourai is a webzine produced by Kelly Framel, a multi-media creative director based in downtown New York (but constantly bouncing around the world). Part fashion blog, part glossy mag, part fantasy travel portal, it's your ultimate online destination for stylish daydreams. Tune in for inspirational editorials, beauty tutorials, outfit ideas, DIYs, jet-set travel tips and more!
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