CoutureLab Coalition Launches At Urban Zen In NYC

  Carmen, Donna and members of the CoutureLab Coalition gather to discuss the aims of the network / Photo: Charlie Johnson.

Carmen, Donna and members of the CoutureLab Coalition gather to discuss the aims of the network / Photo: Charlie Johnson.

When Carmen, Livia Firth and Donna Karan led the assembly of what has now become the CoutureLab Coalition several months ago in Costa Rica, we planned to meet again in New York following Carmen’s receipt of the Fashion 4 Development prize. And meet we did. Earlier this week, many of the coalition’s founding members and leaders of institutional bodies met to discuss the goals of the network, including Marianne Hernandez of PACUNAM (an organization committed to the preservation of Guatemala's natural and cultural heritage), Celina de Sola of non-profit Glasswing (which addresses the root causes of poverty and violence in communities through education and health programs), Cameron Saul of Bottletop Foundation (a brand and organization committed to sustainable design that empowers young people through raising funds via various creative initiatives.) Of course, Donna and Livia’s teams from Urban Zen and Eco-Age respectively were also present.

  Empowering global artisans is at the top of everyone’s agenda / Photo: Charlie Johnson.

Empowering global artisans is at the top of everyone’s agenda / Photo: Charlie Johnson.

Having launched a new website that will eventually serve as a resource and platform for all of the CoutureLab Coalition’s members to unify and draw on each other’s experiences and affiliations, we brainstormed all the ways that we can help each other achieve common goals.

  L-R: Marianne Hernandez, Celina de Sola, Cameron Saul, Isabella Springmuhl, Livia Firth, Carmen Busquets, Donna Karan / Photo: Charlie Johnson.

L-R: Marianne Hernandez, Celina de Sola, Cameron Saul, Isabella Springmuhl, Livia Firth, Carmen Busquets, Donna Karan / Photo: Charlie Johnson.

One thing’s for certain, we all felt passionate about helping Latin American artisans, an area that is particularly rich in cultural heritage, and preserving global craftsmanship. In many ways, the Coalition’s aims are in line with what motivated Carmen to launch her business in Venezuela over 30 years ago, as well as her CoutureLab project in London in the 00s, hence the use of the name to convey the continuation of the mission. We were also lucky to have in attendance Isabella Springmuhl Tejada, a remarkable young designer from Guatemala who we all met in Costa Rica. A guest of honor, Isabella, who has Down’s Syndrome, has famously become a fashion designer against all odds and despite being denied entry to her local university. Read more about her story here.

  The roundtable discussion was followed by a cocktail at Donna’s Urban Zen / Photo: Charlie Johnson.

The roundtable discussion was followed by a cocktail at Donna’s Urban Zen / Photo: Charlie Johnson.

The cocktail was hosted at Urban Zen in Greenwich Village in what was Donna’s late husband Stephen Weiss’ studio. A sculptor and painter, Stephen founded Donna’s brand with her, one that became one of America’s leading fashion houses.

  It was also the birthday of our hostess, Donna, which we celebrated with cake / Photo: Charlie Johnson.

It was also the birthday of our hostess, Donna, which we celebrated with cake / Photo: Charlie Johnson.

As we continue the journey in helping shape a more conscious consumerism and sustainability in the fashion industry, we wish to be inclusive of everyone’s ideas. Please tell us your thoughts in the comments, and read more about the CoutureLab Coalition here.