Rihanna has announced that she will work with The New School’s Parsons School of Design, one the world’s leading art and design schools, Donna Karan and her Urban Zen Foundation, and Haitian artisans to develop a merchandise line for the singer’s Clara Lionel Foundation in Haiti this summer.
Parsons design students will collaborate with local artisans at the Design, Organization, Training (D.O.T) Center, an artisan vocational training center in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. Co-founded by Karan, Parsons, and designer Paula Coles, the D.O.T Center is an incubator for Haiti’s artisan community, fostering innovation, providing resources and materials, and enabling artisans to scale their designs while preserving the wisdom and integrity of their unique culture.
The partnership — emerging from a relationship between Urban Zen Foundation and Clara Lionel Foundation, which have worked together on socially engaged projects in Haiti — embodies the collective mission of both organizations and Parsons to positively transform people’s lives.
“We are ecstatic that our students will have the opportunity to work with and develop a merchandise line for Rihanna’s Clara Lionel Foundation, that, like Parsons, shares a strong commitment to creating positive social change,” says Alison Mears, director of the Healthy Materials Lab at Parsons who played an integral role in launching D.O.T. “Through this partnership with Donna Karan and Urban Zen, students will live Parsons’ mission, taking a multidisciplinary collaborative approach and utilizing local sustainable practices and healthier materials to create products that benefit Haiti and the Clara Lionel Foundation.”
Students will travel to and work in Haiti through Parsons Design Fellowship, a competitive program launched by Karan’s Urban Zen in 2015. Now in its third year, the program sends three Parsons students to Haiti for six to eight weeks beginning in early June.
Rihanna, who will be honored at Parsons Benefit, will announce the winners of the fellowship along with Karan at the event on May 22 in New York City. Karan was honored at the Benefit, a fundraiser for scholarships for Parsons students, last year.
Since its founding in 2015, the D.O.T Center has developed a training plan for educating local artisans — elevating local production practices, and helping artisans to develop their design expertise and create new products for market, as well as offering business services to a new generation of artisans. Parsons, through its Healthy Materials Lab, has advocated for the use of sustainable and local materials at the D.O.T Center.