Karen Walker On NZ Fashion and Island Escapes

Over the next few months Pedestrian will be profiling seven creatives from New Zealand for a cultural exchange program that doesn’t involve claiming Crowded House as our own. We’ve already visited Wellington thanks to fashion blogger Natalie Smith and gone on a photo tour of Christchurch with T’Nealle Worsley of dance-punk four-piece Bang Bang Eche and today we’ll be speaking with designer Karen Walker about her hometown of Auckland, where she lives with her husband Mikhail and young daughter Valentina.

If you’re unfamiliar with Walker’s work, she is regarded as one of New Zealand’s most high profile designers. Her eponymous label had it’s first runway show in 1998 and has since shown 7 times in New York City and 5 times in London. Celebrities such as Bjork, Sienna Miller, Cate Blanchett, Madonna, Drew Barrymore and Alexa Chung all favour her work and four pieces from her “Dust” collection were even worn by Kate Winslet in Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. We recently caught up with Karen to discuss local inspiration, little secrets and the best escape in Auckland.

You started the label at aged 18 in 1988, how has the NZ fashion scene changed since then?

It’s become more educated, more interesting, more varied and more refined.

Do you think that being from New Zealand has been an advantage, disadvantage or largely irrelevant to your success in the fashion world.

Largely irrelevant. The only thing that matters in the fashion world is the work.

You’ve just shown at New York fashion week – as you have numerous times before. What keeps you in New Zealand?

My family, my home, and the best Chai Lattes in the World.

What is the biggest misconception about Auckland or New Zealand?

That it’s moody.

Tell us about where you live.

I grew up and have always lived in Auckland, which is a sprawling city with many little secrets and surprises. I live in Ponsonby, which is super central, very pretty, has a strong sense of community and neighbourhood and is busy, but at the same time very laid back.

If you had a friend visiting from our town, where are some of your favourite spots in the city that you would take them to?

On a sunny day, a visit to The Department Store in Takapuna which is our new baby, followed by lunch at the Takapuna Beach Cafe and a swim or a walk along that coastline. For a fancy dinner, The French Cafe. For an escape, a day trip to Bethell’s Beach, Te Henga – 40 minutes from down town Auckland – great beach walks, great coffee at the Bethell’s Cafe nestled in the sand dunes and stay over night at the Bethell’s Cottages.

Who are some of your favourite homegrown creative inspirations?

Right now, I’m loving Lawrence Arabia and we used one of his tracks to open our show in New York this season alongside another great New Zealand band – The Ruby Suns. The artists I’m loving are Michael Parekowhai and Richard Malloy.