View recent Karen Walker Collections on Australian Fashion Review Blog.
Introduction to the Karen Walker Fashion Label
“The label is me. There is no Karen Walker the person and Karen Walker the label. It’s one thing, an extension of my personality.” – Karen Walker.
New Zealander ‘Karen Walker’ started her womenswear label in 1988 with just $100 for materials, while in her first year of fashion school and despite the humble beginnings her pieces were soon being sold through selected boutiques. Karen graduated from fashion school in 1990, allowing things to take off with her eponymous label and by 1995 the Karen Walker brand had two stand alone stores in her native New Zealand, as well as being stocked in boutiques throughout Australia.
The Karen Walker Fashion label landed firmly on the international fashion scene in 1998, with her first runway showing at Hong Kong Fashion Week. The collection, entitled ‘Daddy’s Gone Strange’ and featuring reworked men’s tailoring, was immediately picked up by US luxury department store giant Barney’s in New York. This ultimately led to further international exposure when Madonna got her hands on a pair of Karen Walker ‘Killer Pants’ and wore them while performing at the 1998 MTV awards.
The international profile of the brand was further boosted in 2006 with the Karen Walker US runway debut at New York Fashion Week, with a critically acclaimed collection. Following that successful debut, Karen Walker continues to show as part of New York Fashion Week each season and has permanent showrooms in London, New York, Sydney and Tokyo.
The Karen Walker brand has grown to become one of the world’s most well-known and influential fashion labels. International book publisher Phaidon, included the Karen Walker brand in their publication ‘Sample’, which curates the 100 most influential designers to emerge over recent years. Furthermore, Taschen, another international book publisher, featured Karen Walker in their recent book ‘Fashion Now 2’ which chronicles the 160 most important designers, as chosen my the prestigious i-D magazine.
Such notoriety means that brands and retailers are itching to team up with Karen Walker in lucrative joint projects. Previous collaborations of the Karen Walker fashion label include a capsule make-up line for UK consmetics brand Boots 17; a truly unique pop-up store with concept store, The Den, in New York’s East Village; a footwear collaboration with Pointer Shoes of the UK; and the creation of a lipstick shade with cosmetics giant, Clinique.
In addition to the womenswear mainline collection, Karen Walker has expanded her product line to include Karen Walker Jewellery, Karen Walker Eyewear, Karen Walker Paints and the lower-priced diffusion line, Hi There From Karen Walker .
As of early 2012, the Karen Walker collections, were available through a whopping 600 boutiques throughout the world in cities including, Sydney, London, Los Angeles, Tokyo and New York. The Karen Walker collections are also available through the brands five stand alone boutiques in New Zealand: four in Auckland and one in Wellington. Furthermore, the diffusion line, Hi There from Karen Walker, is available exclusively in Australian through department store giant Myer, and exclusively through Anthropologie in the US.
Karen Walker Fashion Label: Key Dates
- 1988: Karen Walker launches her namesake womenswear label, while in her first year at fashion school.
- 1990: Karen Walker graduates with her degree in Fashion Design.
- 1995: The Karen Walker brand opens two stand-alone stores in Auckland, New Zealand, as well as as taking the Australian market by storm being stocked in boutiques throughout the country.
- 1998: The Karen Walker brand goes international with the brand’s first runway showing at Hong Kong Fashion Week. Also this year, the brand has its first runway showing in Australia as part of the New Generation show at Australian Fashion Week.
- 1999: Karen Walker is part of the ‘New Zealand Four’ group show at London Fashion Week, alongside Nom*D, Zambesi and World. The group shows again at London Fashion Week the following year.
- 2000: Karen Walker becomes the first New Zealander to have a first solo show at New York Fashion Week.
- 2005: The brand launched its opticals range, ‘Karen Walker Eyewear’.
- 2007: The Karen Walker brand receives the Prix de Marie Claire Award for Best Creative Talent.
- 2008: Karen Walker announces the launch of her lower-priced diffusion line ‘Hi There from Karen Walker’ during New York Fashion Week, which will be available exclusively through Myer department stores across Australia and New Zealand.
- 2009: Karen was part of the group that launched ‘The Department Store’ in Auckland – a contemporary store project featuring the best in Auckland’s beauty, interiors, art, fashion and food.
- 2011: Karen Walker is asked to create costumes for the Royal New Zealand Ballet’s Stravinsky Selection.
- 2012: The diffusion line, ‘Hi There From Karen Walker’, launches in the US being stocked exclusively through Anthropologie stores.
Aesthetic of the Karen Walker Brand
“Both sweet and tongue-in cheek” – WWD
Since 2002, Karen Walker has been working closely with renowned stylist, Heathermary Jackson on all of the brand’s collections, which has saw the signature Karen Walker aesthetic evolve. The Karen Walker collections are known for their high-fashion take on casual dressing, with a strong emphasis on juxtaposition – masculine with feminine, luxe and basic, tailoring and street style, Gothic and cute. Karen cites her inspirational muses as anti-it-girl, weirdo-heroes like the heavy fringed Ally Sheedy in ‘The Breakfast Club’ and Diane Keaton in ‘Annie Hall’.
Rihanna, Bjork, Drew Barrymore, Sienna Miller, Alexa Chung, Beth Ditto Liv Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, Cate Blanchett, Madonna, Claudia Schiffer, Florence Welch and Natalie Portman are all fans of the Karen Walker collections. The brand has even hit the big screen, with four pieces form the ‘Dust’ collection being worn by Kate Winslet in cult film, ‘Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind’.
Visit the official Karen Walker website, here.