Rachel P. Goldstein: What inspires you most?
Donna karan: There’s such a void in the medical system. When my husband was sick, it became very apparent to me that the nurses were doing the doctor’s job, and the doctors were doing the disease job, so no one was caring for the patient and the loved one. And the Urban Zen Integrative Therapy (UZIT) programs have, in fact, filled that void. My husband [said] before he left—before he died, “Whatever you do, take care of the nurses.” And that would mean supporting the nurses in taking care of the patient and the loved one. The UZIT was formed to do just that. Taking care of patients and loved ones with in-bed yoga, Reiki, aromatherapy, nutrition, and palliative care. But it’s not only taking care of the patient, it’s also self-care for them.
RPG: Why do you do what you do with design and the Foundation?
DK: I do not believe I can no longer dress people, but it’s more about dressing their insides. Everyone is affected by healthcare. Everyone is affected by education. And for me, a personal inspiration is the preservation of culture.
RPG: What makes you happy? DK: Making a difference in the world. Being with my grandchildren and my family. Sitting in the sun. Simple things.
RPG: What makes you vulnerable?
DK: Not feeling that I’m getting my job done.
RPG: How did you meet Rodney and Colleen?
DK: I met Rodney as a yoga teacher through a dear friend of mine, Christina. It was sort of a love-at-first-sight kind of thing. I’ve practiced yoga since I was eighteen and had many yoga teachers, but there was no one like Rodney. Rodney really put the Ashtanga and the Iyengar together as one.
I met Colleen as a private yoga teacher, and together they became one. Watching them grow has really been an extraordinary experience. And [their yoga studio] Yoga Shanti is sort of my home-away-from-home in the Hamptons.
RPG: What has the UZIT program done for patients?
DK: Well, we’ve done a clinical test study in Beth Israel Hospital, and we found out that we saved $999,000. But more importantly, [UZIT] touches the lives of so many people who are in fear, who are going through a cancer treatment for so long. When we took the UZITs to Haiti to work in the hospitals there, the most extraordinary thing was to see what a difference it makes with a lot of people who don’t speak the language and who are not yogis by heart. When I see a non-yogi [benefit], that’s when it really affects my life.
RPG: When you go to sleep at night, what makes you smile the most?
DK: That I’m going to sleep! [laughs]
RPG: How can you achieve your goals, and how can others help you?
DK: This is not about me. This is about a we. [This is about] realizing the importance of mind, body, and spirit and using the wisdom of the culture in healthcare and in education. So, it’s a past, present, and future. My dream is that there is an Urban Zen or a community in every single city that’s responsible for changing health care and education.