66 Magazine Issue 4 Summer 2018 - Page 47

THE VISIONARY WORDS VICTORIA WELLS PHOTOS VINESH KUMARAN Karen Walker the designer. Karen Walker the label. Intrinsically linked in popular culture for three decades, the celebrated New Zealand fashion designer has paved her own way to global respect and recognition. “You’ve got to have the vision,” says Karen Walker matter-of-factly as she sits in her Grey Lynn workroom, surrounded by racks of her latest collection and with pieces from the new ‘Disney x Karen Walker’ collaboration arranged artfully in front of her. “If you don’t have that, you might as well just go home.” She would know. Walker’s vision turned 30 this year – it was in 1988 that she launched her eponymous brand; two years after finishing Sixth Form at Auckland’s Epsom Girls Grammar. In an early sign of her business savvy (and before even dial-up internet) the 18-year-old could see the potential beyond New Zealand’s fashion market, which contained just a handful of local designers. “I’ve always been very outward looking,” she says. “I think that was why I had the vision, because it was so parochial and closed [in New Zealand]. There were no brands or labels that inspired me to want to work for them and I couldn’t get the sorts of things that I wanted so I had to do it myself.” Her grandmother and mother had taught her how to sew (she still has her mother’s pistachio green Bernina) and the first piece she made under her new label was a Liberty print shirt for a male friend. The juxtaposition of the feminine print with a masculine cut set the tone of her now distinctive style. 66 MagAzine SUMMER 2018 45