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Essay: Karen Walker: Staying True to Yourself and Growing a Successful Fashion Label

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  • Subject area(s): Sample essays
  • Reading time: 3 minutes
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  • Published: 1 February 2018*
  • File format: Text
  • Words: 875 (approx)
  • Number of pages: 4 (approx)
  • Tags: Fashion essays

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Karen Walker has a distinct culture to what she portrays throughout her brand and her company itself. Karen walker is all about staying true to yourself and your peers, she highlights the importance of her upbringing, her love of music and staying relevant in a tough business society.

As Walker started her own brand herself at the age of 17, she is fully aware of the value of design and the investment of time and money in the design process. The Karen Walker label is a collaborative effort, Mikhail Gherman, her husband, is involved in marketing and creative direction. Walker says her brand wouldn't be what it is today without him.  Design audits don’t majorly apply in Karen Walker’s world as she gets to design what she wants basically when she wants too. She says “We work smart and intuitively and we don’t have to seek approval for every decision” (Karen Walker 2014).

Karen Walker is always thinking to the future which is a challenge for her. She keeps up with market demands and user needs which is why she is so successful today. She listens to fashions movements and designs accordingly to the changes. Walker has many completed projects (lines) and one of her most popular is the Runaway line. She insists that her success has a lot to do with having “a good accountant. Make sure there’s someone on the team who pays the taxes and sends the invoices. Without them, you’re heading for disaster.” (Ahwa, 2017).

Karen Walker is now a successful design planner as she has had to be self taught from a young age. She has learnt the design process the hard way, by trial and error. Starting with a budget of $100, she created what we have today. She had to incorporate the timescales and budget limitations in her first creation, she got asked to make a t-shirt for a uni friend in a band and this is what set her career off.

According to Peter Drucker, the purpose of business is to create a customer; that is, identify a customer demand, then supply a product or service that satisfies this demand (Drucker, 2005). Karen Walker’s management overview involves business enterprising. She has to factor in rivalry fashion brands to keep hers on top of the competition and to keep her products satisfying the demand of the public.

Karen Walker’s financial reports are growing yearly, with the sales of her eyewear alone exceeding $35m in 2014. Walker won’t release her business figures publicly, but she says all of her lines create profit and the last five years has seen an increase of 20 per cent per annum. Her range is growing and her company is expanding into new products and markets. “Keeping the company private and funding its own growth has been key to maintaining an innovative culture” (Walker, 2014).

Cultural understanding is a major part of Karen Walker as she has over 240 stores worldwide. This means she has to take into consideration what she puts on the market where, because each culture has different beliefs, races and desires. Walker has a great marketing front as advertising is how she portrays her brand to the public in different countries. Her branding is very bold, unique and quirky which catches the attention of the viewer.

As Best (2010) states “People innovate; not machines, not computers, not processes but people”. Walker connects her designs with business objectives to ensure they are ethically made and meet high standards. An example of her innovation was when she transformed her Newmarket store into a charity shop in 2018. All the money raised from sales of the hand knits went to Dove Hospice. She wanted to do this to raise funds to go towards the services they provide and raise awareness around Dove Hospice’s stores.


Identified ‘strategic design’ challenge

Karen Walker hasn't faced many large international problems but a major one would be her racist connotations during advertising. In February 2014, Karen Walker received some backlash online about her ad campaign in which Kenyan fair trade workers wore her Chinese-made sunglasses. This has been criticised as "disingenuous" on social media. The initiative's motto is "not charity, just work" and aims to promote sustainable business over aid dependency, but some of the public were not fans of this ad. Many companies and designers get targeted for being culturally insensitive, chauvinist or racist including Dove body wash shown below. Racism in advertising has been around for many years now, some intentional, some unintentional. I personally think that Karen Walker didn’t aim for this to seem racist or insensitive, but I can see how it does portray the racist connotations which people interpreted the wrong way. Karen Walker tried to resolve the issue by replying to the backlashes via email that Walker “had never employed work environments that could in any way be considered unethical and a modelling fee of $5400 was paid into a community fund, administered by the United Nations – a similar fee to what would have been paid for if the campaign was shot in NZ or Australia. The Chinese manufacturers were also inspected regularly "to ensure they meet our high standards, including matters of health and safety, child labour, freedom of

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