Karen Walker Says Collaboration Key to Growth
Launched in 1989 with two t-shirts and the paltry sum of $100, Karen Walker – often called the designer for “anti-It Girls” – has grown into a globally recognised fashion brand, worn by Natalie Portman, Lady Gaga and Alexa Chung, with over 950 points of sale across 35 countries, the Business of Fashion (BoF) reports.
Collaboration is at the heart of the business, helmed by designer Karen Walker and her husband and business partner Mikhail Gherman, who also works on the company’s non-traditional marketing campaigns.
“We have a motto: Only work with people who get it,” Gherman says. “They’ve got to tick a whole lot of boxes,” Walker agrees. “They’ve got to have the experience and the infrastructure and the distribution and everything else. But you’ve also got to like them. Our business is built around collaborations, long-term license partnerships. We’re not interested in being a manufacturing company. We like to work with experts.”
For each line, Walker has sought out specialists in their respective fields, such as luxury accessory maker Benah, with whom Karen Walker launched a handbag line earlier this year. The designer’s longest partnership is a 15-year relationship with Resene paint manufacturer. Other collaborators include shoe brand Beau Coops, Happy Socks, Uniqlo and Manebi.
Eyewear is Karen Walker’s most important category. Launched in 2004, the company’s eyewear division, known for its funky sunglasses, is set to generate $35 million in 2014.
Other markets are very much on the horizon. Karen Walker plans to open stores in Japan next year as part of another licensing deal.
Original article by Andrew Glenn, The Business of Fashion, November 28, 2014.
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