Talking global success with kiwi fashion icon – Karen Walker

N. The Karen Walker brand is a Kiwi success story on a global scale. How do you divide your time and attention between New Zealand and your international markets?

I don’t think of the markets as being separate. My work day focuses on whatever needs to be done in any market or category.


N. Was there a moment in your career which was a turning point that enabled your success? If so, what was that?

No, a brand or business is built on millions of tiny successes.


N. Do you have a favourite item in your Resort collection and if yes, why?

I love all the pale denim and I’m really into our oversized sunhat.


N. It’s 10am on a Sunday morning. Where would we find you and what are you doing?

Probably in my yoga room at home doing a few fore-arm stands and down dogs.


N.Describe the Karen Walker customer.

Any interesting people.


N.Queenstown or Wanaka? And why?

Neither. I like Arrowtown.


N.The Karen Walker brand has been adorned by some of the world’s most influential celebrities and fashion influencers. Which celebrity gave you butterflies when you saw them wearing your brand?

Lena Dunham always gives me a thrill.


N. Describe New Zealand fashion in 3 words.



N.If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self, what would it be?

It’ll all be OK.


N. What would we find in your handbag?

Nothing unusual: Cell phone and rechargers, wallet, sunglasses, lippy.


N.What is Newmarket’s best kept secret?

I find it difficult to walk past the Plastic Box shop without buying more storage units for home!


N. Coffee or tea, and how do you take it?

Decaf latte at 10.30am and after that fresh ginger tea.


N.Your “Toast Meets Karen” Karen Walker Eyewear campaign involved Toast the Dog. How has blogging and social media changed the way you work?

It’s changed everything. The best thing about it is that it allows the conversation between brands and fans to be direct, fluid, authentic and continuous. There are no gate-keepers anymore.


N.What is it like working with your husband? How do you sort out different points of view?

It’s great. I’ve never known anything else and I wouldn’t have it any other way. We seldom disagree and if we do we listen to each other’s points of view and nine times out of 10 one of us sees the light. If no one backs down we sleep on it and it usually resolves itself the next day.


N.Looking back on New Zealand fashion, what do you think has been the biggest change in the past 20 years?

The bar’s a lot higher than it used to be.


N.What advice would you give someone who was interested in becoming a fashion designer in New Zealand?

The same as I’d give someone wanting to be a designer anywhere – have a unique point of view or go home.


N.We are very proud of the fact you helped shaped Newmarket as a fashion heavy weight and opened your first retail store in here in 1993. How has fashion retail changed since those early days?

The customer has limitless possibilities in front of them and that’s fantastic.


N.Name 5 things that you can’t live without.

As long as I have my family, my iPhone and my passport I’m pretty happy.


N.What has been your best fashion investment?

Last winter’s KW shearling coat is something I think I’ll have in my wardrobe for many years to come. I used it almost every day this past winter and it’ll be unbeatable in NY when I’m there for fashion week in February and it’s minus 30 degrees out.


N.And your worst?

There are a few pairs of ridiculously high heels from expensive stores that haven’t seen the light of day in my closet.


N.Can you tell us a bit more about your work with the United Nations’ ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative?

It’s an ongoing project and I’m honoured to be working with the EFI team and helping to make a difference in my small way. We started working with them for a project we did around eyewear packaging about three years ago and since then have continued to work with them on capsule collections of bags. What I like about working with this team is that, in addition to the product being great, the difference made to the communities we work with is completely measured and accounted for in every way and that our projects with them have already made a big difference.


N.What’s next for Karen Walker?

Just counting the weeks until the summer holidays frankly. I’ve a pile of books to read and a hammock to put up in my backyard.

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