Known for her androgynous and offbeat designs, New Zealander Karen Walker first launched her label in 1989 but rose to prominence in 2000, when she debuted at New York Fashion Week. Having launched her label at age 18 with just NZ$100 and two T-shirts, she now presides over an international fashion, jewellery, and accessories brand. She trades on a punchy, tomboyish edge, pairing neons with pastels and floral prints with military touches that has won over the likes of Meghan Markle, Michelle Obama and Priyanka Chopra .
She has been called the designer for anti-‘It’ girls, with a particular cult following for her funky sunglasses, favoured by bloggers and celebrities like Lady Gaga. Walker’s 1998 debut at Hong Kong Fashion Week increased her visibility dramatically, with Barneys picking up the collection of reworked business suits, entitled ‘Daddy’s Gone Strange’.
Since then, she has steadily grown to be New Zealand’s most famous fashion export, working with her husband Mikhael Gherman. Today, the brand is available at retail in 42 countries, 200 cities and 1020 stores including Barneys New York, Liberty London and Harvey Nichols.
Although the company declines to release figures, Walker has revealed that the brand had seen an increase of 20 percent per year on top and bottom lines for the past five years. In 2014, it was estimated that sales of the Karen Walker eyewear line alone would top $35 million. The Karen Walker label is a collaborative effort, with the designer’s husband, Mikhail Gherman, who is involved in marketing and creative direction. That same year, Walker was deemed a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for her services to fashion design.