Karen Walker on shopping, chess players, and the website she frequents more than her own
31st May 2019
Karen Walker has been a hugely successful fixture in the fashion industry for more than 30 years. The fashion, accessories, and jewellery designer has clearly played the long-term game like a champion, expanding her business thoughtfully and considerably – staying true to her taste but also flexing within the changing retail environment.
Just in the last 12 months, Meghan Markle has even stepped out in a pair of the designer’s stud earrings not once, but twice – and if that’s not the ultimate marker of success, we don’t know what is (but more celebrity fans include Michelle Obama, Robert Downey Jr., Cardi B, Priyanka Chopra, and Lady Gaga, should you need further convincing).
Walker will take to the stage at Vogue Codes this year, talking the audience through all things creativity, innovation, and helming an established business in the digitised version of the fashion industry – which, as we know, moves about one million miles an hour.
Ahead of Walker’s appearance next week, she sat down with Vogue for a mini series of rapid fire questions, covering everything from shopping habits to the women that inspire her (all of which are outside of the fashion and design industry, might we add). Keep reading for the interview, and be sure to head to vogue.com.au/vogue-codes for further information.
Your business has been relevant for over 30 years. How do you keep things fresh and innovative?
“I stay curious every minute of the day.”
How have you noticed retail habits have changed since you launched, to now?
“No one shops for recreation anymore. Shopping is done with a purpose, not just to kill time. People also do their research before visiting a store and they’re more mindful of what they purchase and why they’re purchasing it.”
And what about social media – how does it integrate into the success of your business?
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“Social media is a way to engage with my audience directly, without anyone filtering the conversation we’re having. It’s about story-telling and creating a mood that’s tempting enough to entice people to ‘click here’.”
What about your own life – how do you use technology to streamline things?
“For me, it’s all about the email. Working across lots of different time zones, my inbox is my crucial connection to the world. I have a fail-safe system that means nothing gets forgotten or missed. I may not get to you within a day but I will get to you! I’m really diligent when it comes to filing.”
“Also, I’d be lost without Wikipedia and the Oxford English Dictionary online. They’re the only two sites I visit more than my own!”
What’s the one aspect of running your own business that you find the most difficult?
“Keeping up with the stuff that has to be done – the business side of things is relentless, and constantly cuts into my time. Balancing this aspect with creativity and having the courage to take the business into unknown places is a really tough thing.”
If you had to put your success down to only one thing, what would that be?
“A combination of my creativity, and always thinking about the business long-term. I think this is why I’ve been able to stick around.”
Single best business decision you’ve ever made?
“To just get on with it! I don’t have a lot of time to spend on non-constructive activities.”
Name three women that inspire you.
“Lisa Lane, Sonja Graf and Dorsa Derakhshani. I love chess and this trio are incredibly gifted players – not to mention, they have great style as well. Their love and genius in relation to the game sets the standard for discipline and commitment. I’ve always really admired that.”