In honor of Veterans Day, November 11, Donna Karan is launching an initiative in partnership with Veteran Services USA, or VSUSA, a nonprofit organization committed to supporting returning veterans and veterans by providing access to programs that enable successful life transitions, and Cheri Kaufman, VSUSA partner and founder of Kaufman Astoria Studios, to raise funds in support of VSUSA’s innovative PTSD program utilizing RTM.
During his ongoing work with VSUSA, Kaufman told WWD that he shared with Donna Karan that he had come across clothing stores that included jackets, hats, and boots. The pieces, he said, were in excellent condition and the designer agreed to reuse them. Together, Kaufman and Karan came up with a plan to redesign the pieces for head-to-toe looks that could be auctioned off to raise money in support of veterans.
“I always felt like these people have given us so much,” Kaufman said of American veterans. “We thank them when they come in, but we don’t think to thank these people when they come out and there are 20 million of them. These veterans are women and men who have gained skills in service to our nation, and deserve to reclaim their lives from the pain of PTSD. PTSD is tremendous for many. If we can do something to help them, not only do you feel good about doing something, but you feel good about everything.”
Karan and his team have already thrown themselves into redesigning, reinventing, and repurposing military apparel. Pointing out the importance of raising money to provide therapy to veterans struggling with PTSD and suicide, she said she was glad to have the opportunity.
“I knew I wanted to be involved in the initiative as soon as it was introduced to me,” Karan said. “Urban Zen is about dressing up and addressing issues facing individuals and communities and our veterans have dealt and are dealing with PTSD and trauma. There is an important initiative behind this project and fashion has always been a force for good. When I launched Super Saturday, it was to raise awareness for ovarian cancer. I hope this raises awareness for our veterans battling PTSD and suicide. Also, this is not just about the military, this is about raising awareness of how people are suffering and how we can help each other in a time of stress and need.”
To tackle the design of the pieces, Karan said he used a lens similar to the one he uses in Urban Zen.
“The natural color of green has always been one of my favorites,” Karan said of the pieces. “The original tailored pieces were magnificent in both their masculine and feminine details. I embellished the pieces and used their distinctive qualities from an embroidery point of view. It’s amazing the level of content they’ve given me to work with.”
She shared the hope that others will be as excited as she is when they see the redesigns. “I hope they see that not everything has to be new, there is a novelty in redesigning what was once created.”
While Karan and his team have moved ahead, the redesigns are just the beginning of a larger program that will be auctioned off for the initiative next year, including the participation of other well-known designers. The designers have yet to be announced.
“Bringing together designers and creators from across the industry to support critical causes has always been important to Donna, like Super Saturday and 7th on Sale,” said Helen Aboah, CEO of Urban Zen. “The pieces our Urban Zen designers created with Donna are just a preview of what is to come. At the start of the new year, we’ll be announcing a collective of fellow designers who will be joining Donna on this incredibly important initiative.”
Information about the initiative and the auction will be shared in 2023.