Photo courtesy Bungalow
The world-famous designer steps off the bus at Bungalow in New Albany. She's wearing a laidback all-black ensemble, a chunky statement necklace that does the heavy lifting, a severe, low bun, and a tiny smirk.
An electric buzz of anticipation hums inside the store where the party awaits. A Bungalow denizen can't help but chirp a squeal.
Donna Karan has arrived.
"[Prominent yoga instructor and her business partner Rodney Yee] has told me about Columbus for so long," Karan says. "I said Columbus? Why Columbus?"
Karan was in town last month to tour Ohio State's hospitals and celebrate her new line of décor and jewelry Urban Zen coming to Bungalow, the newish but already-beloved décor store of Columbus' well-heeled. It is one of only a few places in the country to shop Karan's line in person.
Capital Style caught up with her at her latter Columbus destination-"caught" being the operative word; this woman is crazy busy. But she'd never let on to it.
"I admire women like Hillary Clinton. God only knows how she does what she does," Karan says with a smoky laugh. "I'm exhausted just thinking about how Hillary does it."
She lists about 10 more strong, successful women she admires. They, she says, inspire her to keep promoting Urban Zen. Many of the Urban Zen products available at Bungalow are handcrafted by Haitian artisans. Proceeds from their purchase go back to the artisans' communities.
There are beads made from recycled cardboard, jewelry made from horns and clutches crafted with a papier mache technique. With Karan's cue, the resourceful crafts take on a high style allure. The line feels tribal, earthly and important.
"I love these horn bracelets because these are from Haiti," Karan says as she shakes the accessories on her slender, tan wrist. "It's not just because they're from Haiti. It's because there's a soul to them. There's really a spirit that comes through, and I think that when you purchase something like that and realize how you can make a difference in somebody's life it really makes you feel good. It feels so good when you're wearing something that makes a difference in the world."
Karan first visited Haiti on a volunteer mission to help rebuild after the earthquake in 2010. She now goes back about every three weeks, she says.
The line of décor is just one part of the Urban Zen Foundation. Karan's currently working on creating Urban Zen centers that promote integrated therapy, yoga and healthy and philanthropic living.
"I really believe Urban Zen is a model for helping the developing world," she says. "Instead of just giving money we should respect their pride but also help assist them, give them a sustainable community which will then allow them to build a school and hospitals. Sometimes creativity allows you to figure out the whole problems of life."