When fashion designer Donna Karan went to Haiti after the devastating earthquake last year, the artistic spirit of the people deeply moved her.
“I saw some of the most creative people I’ve ever seen,” Karan, 62, said by phone while enroute to her house in the Hamptons section of Long Island, New York. “I believe there is a major opportunity for rebuilding Haiti through its own creativity.”
As an offshoot to her Urban Zen Foundation, which she started in 2007 to work on health care and education, Karan set up Hope Help & Rebuild Haiti. Veuve Clicquot chose it as the beneficiary of the champagne maker’s fourth annual Polo Classic at New York’s Governors Island.
Co-hosted by Argentine polo star Ignacio “Nacho” Figueras and designer Marc Jacobs, the event was emceed by actor Hugh Jackman. The polo match started at 2:30 p.m. and an awards ceremony was followed at 4 p.m. Those who opt to pay $5,000 for a pair of VIP tickets got a chance to hang out with Karan in a tented space. She previewed a papier-mâché bag made from tobacco leaves and other materials, and exhibit the work of Haitian artists.
“People only see the negative side of Haiti,” Karan said. “I want people to see the positive side. I do a lot of work in Bali where I make furniture, and I think Haiti could be the next Bali.”
Chefs from restaurateur Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group served a new line of burgers and small plates from his Blue Smoke rib joint, El Verano Taqueria and Public Fare in Central Park. The Modern executive chef Gabriel Kreuther made a special multicourse Champagne luncheon and gourmet picnic baskets for VIP ticketholders.
Karan said the Veuve Clicquot gift will go to Yele Haiti, singer Wyclef Jean’s charity that has aided Haitian earthquake relief, and to Dr. Paul Farmer’s Partners in Health nonprofit, which has provided health care to the poor in Haiti since 1987.
Through the Urban Zen Foundation, Karan taps the worlds of medicine, fashion, entertainment and education to back her charity work. Her expansive two-story, loft-like Urban Zen Center in Manhattan’s West Village has become a prime venue for her charity events and those of other nonprofits she supports. The foundation made a name for itself with its Integrative Therapy Program, which marries holistic approaches to patient care with medicine, empowering children and preserving cultures.
Karan said she has taken her cues as a philanthropist from former U.S. President Bill Clinton, the co-chairman of the Interim Haiti Recovery Commission. Through his Clinton Global Initiative, he has helped rebuild the ravaged nation.
On June 9, Urban Zen will honor Clinton with its first Apple Award, named after a 3-ton sculpture of the fruit at Manhattan’s Millennium Garden created by Karan’s husband and artist, Stephan Weiss, who died of lung cancer in 2001.
Clinton, who has worn Karan’s designs, gave her foundation a lift by linking it with programs in the impoverished nation through Clinton Global Initiative, she said.
“We’re taking integrative therapists into hospitals in Haiti,” Karan said. “We’re supporting schools and education, and we collaborate with organizations there. And this is all coming out of the Clinton Initiative.”
Source: Patrick Cole for Bloomberg
Photos: Charles Eshelman/Getty Images for Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic, A.H. Walker for Wireimage, Paul Lomax for DNAinfo