Donna Karan Partners With Parsons to Launch Design School in Haiti

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Donna Karan

The designer, who previously has championed Haitian craftsmanship with her Urban Zen Foundation, has partnered with the private art-and-design school to help foster Haiti's emerging talent.

Designer Donna Karan has teamed up with Parsons The New School for Design to launch DOT, the Design, Organization, Training Center for emerging artists in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

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Karan, who has been deeply inspired by the country’s craftsmanship since visiting Port-au-Prince following 2007’s massive earthquake, also heads up the Urban Zen Foundation, which works to empower Haitian artisans by providing models of sustainable commerce. Along with Parsons, the Urban Zen Foundation also will be responsible for providing tools and resources to DOT.

In an interview with WWD, the 66-year-old designer stated, “I always wanted to start with vocational education because when you give someone a job, it’s like a fishing rod. It’s teaching them how to do it for themselves. Everyone in Haiti has an artisan capability. That is their true nature.”

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Eventually, the designer hopes to bring Parsons students to Haiti to collaborate with Haitian artisans and revamp the fashion world — which, she notes, has become too homogenized. “When I was first starting out, the differences between New York, Paris, Milan and London were vast. Now it’s the same stores, same kind of restaurants, same everything. Where’s the speciality? That comes from artists and designers.”