Karen Walker Eyewear: ‘Every piece has to be ‘WOW!’
You’d have to be completely uninterested by New Zealand fashion, to have failed to register the popularity of Karen Walker eyewear.
Whether it’s the well-dressed school run Mummy; the local fashion fraternity, or in the pages of the women’s mags as worn by an international celebrity, Walker’s witty, fresh frames are easily identified.
Talking to Elle magazine backstage after her A/W 11/12 show in New York, Walker said “When we first started doing the sunglasses, the rule we said to ourselves was ‘Nothing commercial...We didn’t want to do ‘Oh, here’s the two press pieces and here’s the rest that are just dull.’ I think that’s how a lot of eye-brands are. But for us, we said, ‘If there’s twenty pieces in a collection, every piece has to be ‘Wow!’ And hopefully that’s what we achieve. But something’s working, because they’re popular!”
Karen Walker Eyewear have recently packed up a limited edition range called Candy Bar and are popping up two stores simultaneously around the world. RESTIR in Tokyo houses Karen Walker eyewear alongside brands including Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent and Miu Miu, and saw the Candy Bar launch on 23 May. The schedule will take in South Korea, Singapore, Canada, the US (LA and New York), Hong Kong, China and Sydney before stopping in Auckland in November, en route to Melbourne.
Beyond great design, it’s likely this such energy - kinetic and otherwise - that sees Karen Walker Eyewear account for almost 20% of Karen Walker’s global sales, with a value of close to AUD$10,000,000 per annum.
The ad campaigns feature anything but plain clothes models - this is a brand that prefers dictators, Sun Gods and aliens. Creative is devised by Karen and her husband Mikhail Gherman and and shot on location in New York with Karen's local team.
The brand also has a global gifting strategy but are at pains to specify that Karen Walker eyewear has genuine equity with stylists and celebs, “that makes them want to buy it themselves, which is happening in-store and online daily.”
International brand consultant Linlee Allen handles celebrity product placement for Karen Walker Eyewear. She says "LA is very celebrity-saturated market, with lots of reality TV types like the Kardashians - they're not the right girls for Karen Walker Eyewear.”
“We spend time aligning ourselves with artists and establishing relationships with them. For example, I work closely with Arianne Phillips who styles Madonna and works with W, Italian Vogue, etc. When Arianne was nominated for an Academy Award she chose to wear Karen Walker Eyewear on the red carpet. I've known Karen and Mikhail for more than 10 years now and they value something like that much more than a big celebrity being stalked by paparazzi. They value artistic integrity and that's very important to them. Everyone who works with Karen Walker is of a likeminded sensibility.”
“I did target the street style girls, the ones that are featured on all of the street style sites like Style.com at London, Milan, New York and Paris fashion weeks. Candice Lake, Hanneli Mustaparta, Susie Lau, Natalie Joos - those girls START with the glasses when they are planning their outfits, every single day. You could gift the product as much as you like, if it's not right they won't wear it, nor will they if the quality is not there.”
Natalie Joos wearing pink 'Harvest' frames
So, what to expect when Candy Bar comes to Auckland come November? The traveling collection of limited edition sunglasses includes five styles (Harvest, Helter Skelter, Number Six, Deep Freeze and Perfect Day) - the best sellers from a range of seasons - available, naturally, in candy colours: milky cream, strawberry, toffee, bubblegum and vanilla. Meantime, as we told you in FREE|STYLE last week (11 June 2012), the special edition gold filigree sunglasses will hit stores here in September. If Bryan Boy tweeted “I NEED THOSE”, you can guarantee they’ll be just as ‘needed’ by local style stars.