Fashion mogul Donna Karan discusses Urban Zen, her newly opened pop-up boutique at The Residences at The Little Nell.
Just a couple of days before Christmas 2014–amid the flurry of holiday parties and evening soirees dotting the stores, resort hotels, and restaurants of Aspen–Donna Karan quietly opened a new pop-up boutique at The Residences at The Little Nell.
The unseasonably humble opening would prove apropos for Karan’s venture, dubbed Urban Zen, where women’s and men’s apparel are displayed alongside leather goods, jewelry, home décor, and art.
“When people walk into Urban Zen, the name alone evokes a sense of finding calm in the chaos,” Karan says. “It’s a world view.”
A world view through a specially crafted Karan lens. When stepping into Urban Zen–the Aspen outlet is just the third after locations in New York's West Village and Sag Harbor–you'll feel transported from a tiny mountain hamlet into one of Karan’s own homes.
“There is a soul to the store that is lacking in most stores,” she says. “It arises all of your senses, from the art to the essential oils that produce incredible aromas to the rich textures of the fabrics.”
Karan culled much of the pieces in the boutique from her world travels, particularly from artists and woodworkers in Indonesia and Haiti. The Aspen store will also feature Silver Snow, an exclusive collection that focuses on white, gray, and silver cashmere sweaters, sweatpants, and leggings, as well as suede, shearling, and down pieces.
What Karan is attempting to accomplish here is nothing new. The idea of lifestyle curation was made most famous in the '90s with Martha Stewart Living, a conglomerate comprised of various television, print, and merchandising ventures. And, while many a starlet (think Gwyneth Paltrow and Blake Lively) have attempted to replicate the Martha Stewart model, none are backed by a name as iconic and prolific as Donna Karan.
But, Urban Zen the lifestyle boutique is just half the story. Urban Zen the foundation is where the project gains a sense of gravitas and social responsibility.
The foundation’s flagship initiative, the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy Program (UZIT), provides support and trains doctors, nurses, and physical and massage therapists in Eastern healing techniques (yoga, shiatsu, aromatherapy, nutrition, and palliative, end-of-life care).
“It all started when my husband, my former boss, and so many of my friends died of cancer,” says Karan. “I would be in the hospital and everyone would be treating the disease and no one was treating the patient. There was no care in health care, just disease care.”
The experience led her to form a 10-day health care symposium, which led to a clinical test study at Beth Israel Medical Center to determine the UZIT program’s efficacy. The results? 500 doctors and nurses at UCLA, Ohio State, and medical centers across the country getting certified in the program.
“There is no question that program works,” Karan adds. “Has it been challenging? Absolutely. But when a hospital like UCLA says that they want to train all their doctors and nurses, that shows it’s pretty successful.”
The Aspen pop-up store is slated to stay in its current location, 501 East Dean Street, through mid-April. Depending on the success of the winter store, Karan plans to continue at the location through summer.
“I started my ski career in Aspen and I have so many fond memories of my husband there,” says Karan. “I couldn’t think of a better place for Urban Zen.”