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New York

Urban Zen

Spring 2017 Ready-to-Wear

New York

Urban Zen

Spring 2017 Ready-to-Wear

New York

BY Roxanne Robinson

May 17, 2017

• Donna Karan opened up her Greenwich Street headquarters for an intimate breakfast on Wednesday morning to introduce her Spring 2017 Urban Zen collection. It was a see-now buy-now presentation, a concept spearheaded by Karan as far back as the early aughts.

 

• The location (the former art studio of Karan’s late husband, Stephan Weiss), décor (modern wooden furniture handcrafted in Bali), unseasonably warm temps, and sunny skies added to the “I gotta have it” factor of the mainly silk and cotton poplin collections of versatile separates. 

 

• Karan’s design philosophy has always been rooted in a wardrobe that can work in many ways, one that’s “meant to layer and take the wearer on a journey.” Anchor pieces of Urban Zen are called “transformers” by the iconic designer. One such piece is an open-front, drapey blouse or dress that can be buttoned at different points along the garment to change the silhouette. The brown-and-black batik-washed silk dress was particularly inviting, as was a hand-painted long black silk version with rich rust, slate blue, and mustard colors.

 

• The line has also focused on sustainability since its inception, primarily putting communities to work in places such as India and Haiti (though the designer did say some clothing is made in Italy). To that end, a fantastically quilted, patchworked, and embroidered jacket made in India utilized fabric remnants, a technique that ran throughout the collection in a no-waste effort. A crisp white caftan with black geometric embroidery was perfect for summer weekend entertaining.

 

• A kimono-style jacket-slash-vest appeared in several iterations, such as a color-block red, yellow and black version or in all-white leather. Other standouts in the collection were a drop-waist and pleated-front black washed poplin circle skirt worn with a crisp oversized white blouse and a slate blue shirtdress with a tie-front waist. Making a strong statement in accessories were graphic wood and embroidered pendants. Leather “loops”  formed beads on a bracelet or long necklace. An enormous tribal-looking necklace constructed of bone, beads, quills and shells stole the show.

 

• Karan, who was on hand to greet guests, was quick to explain that Urban Zen grew out of a need she and husband Weiss discovered unfortunately through his illness. “He said to me before he went, ‘Take care of the nurses.'” The platform was meant to “address, not just dress” patients’ needs, and create funding for training different aspects of wellness practitioners to aid along with traditional Western treatments. In fact, Karan said the clothes came later as those attending her healthcare and educational forums asked, “Where are the clothes? Because at the end of the day, they wanted me to dress them,” she said.

 

• The brand philosophy is built on three ideas: past for preservation of culture, present for integrative healthcare, and future for empowerment of children. Furthering the Urban Zen mission, Karan partnered with singer Rihanna and her Clara Lionel Foundation with her DOT (Design Organization Training) foundation that joins Parsons Students and artisans in Haiti. The singer will be honored at next week’s annual May benefit at Parsons School of Design and the pair will announce the three recipients of this year’s DOT scholarship.

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