Donna Karan urges retailers to practice and encourage conscious consumerism

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When Donna Karan took the stage at Retail’s BIG Show on Monday, she didn’t provide strategies for retailers to get ahead, instead she encouraged them to search their consciences and give back.

Karan said that for her, business has always been personal. She’s a designer as well as a consumer, and she built her business on dressing real women with busy lifestyles. But Karan realized she could use her talents, prominence and platform for something more. “I couldn’t just dress people, I had to address them as well,” Karan said.

Donna Karan discusses the impact of philanthropy.

Karan’s passion for caring for others mind, body and spirit comes from a deeply personal place. Before the loss of her husband and business partner to cancer, he asked her to “take care of the nurses.” As a long-time yogi who noticed missing elements in the healthcare system, Karan, developed the Urban Zen Foundation, which “raises awareness and inspires change by integrating mind, body and spirit into healthcare and education, while utilizing and preserving the wisdom of our cultures.” The foundation’s programs help advance integrative medicine, caring for both patients and loved ones.

The Urban Zen Foundation’s latest initiative is the Haiti Artisan Project, which helps bring the work of Haitian artisans to the world. “I’m often asked, ‘Why Haiti?’”, Karan said. “Haiti represents the three pillars of our foundation – culture, healthcare and education. I believe where there is creativity, there is hope. And Haiti is the most hopeful place I know.”

Karan urged retailers to do their part as both consumers and business leaders to make a difference. “Now is the time to use vision and passion to propel the only platform that makes any sense: conscious consumerism. This is a big ask and it takes a community.”

To find out more about Karan’s mission, you can view her presentation in full, which she generously shared on the Urban Zen Foundation site.

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