Exclusive: Donna Karan Responds to Controversy Surrounding Haiti Campaign

Donna Karan has come under fire recently over her spring 2012 campaign, which features Brazilian model Adriana Lima and was shot in Haiti. Karan sho
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Donna Karan has come under fire recently over her spring 2012 campaign, which features Brazilian model Adriana Lima and was shot in Haiti. Karan sho
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Donna Karan has come under fire recently over her spring 2012 campaign, which features Brazilian model Adriana Lima and was shot in Haiti. Karan shot the campaign in Haiti, she explained in a release, because the country was her "creative inspiration, bringing my two worlds together... [the campaign] infuses the vibrant spirit of Haiti into a sexy New York sophistication." She's founded a charity to bring support to the ravaged country called Hope Help & Rebuild Haiti and said that bringing awareness to Haiti has become a "personal passion" of hers. She's definitely done that here--but it has been the opinion of some blog commenters that the result is misguided and racist. In one photo, Lima poses in the foreground while two Haitian locals look on in the background and there is a noticeably sharp contrast between the two boys and a glammed-up Lima. This photo has been met with the most disapproval. For example, several commenters on this Huffington Post piece, which asks readers if the campaign is "misguided," were outraged:

"The only thing that bothers me about it is a supermodel wearing uber expensive clothing in the middle of a country that has been devastated by unimaginab­le poverty." -thejadedentrepreneur

"If they're spending a lot of money hiring locals during the shoot -- supporting local hotels, restaurant­s, drivers, models, crew, etc. -- then I don't think it's necessaril­y a bad thing. However, using the downtrodde­n as props for high-fashi­on shoots -- especially if these "prop people" are not paid a good wage -- smacks of completely insensitiv­e imperialis­tic attitudes." --StrawHat

"[T]he juxtaposition of luxury clothing — Donna Karan sells $2,000 dresses — and the poorest country in the Western hemisphere is troubling, and perhaps undercuts the message Karan thinks she's sending," wrote Jezebel's Jenna Sauers.

It's a disquieting scenario to say the least, so a spokesperson from Donna Karan has just issued the following statement to us to explain the designer's intent:

It is well known that Donna has been deeply involved in supporting and bringing awareness to Haiti since the earthquake. Through her personal experiences there, Haiti was a natural inspiration for the Spring 2012 collection. The intent of the ad campaign is to celebrate the culture and creativity of the people of Haiti

Karan has dedicated a lot of time and effort in recent years to raising money for, bringing awareness to and helping to rebuild Haiti. In June, Veuve Cliquot chose her charity, Hope Help & Rebuild Haiti, as the beneficiary of its annual Polo Classic. At the event, she showcased the work of Haitian artists, as her focus has been to help Haitians help themselves through creative business development--something she has been working on with the Clinton foundation.

We think Karan's dedication to improving the lives of Haitians is genuine and obviously her intent was not to offend. What do you think?