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Karen Walker – Thriving in a digital revolution

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With her brand being worn by celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Lorde, Gigi Hadid and LeBron James, Karen Walker has become not just an iconic New Zealand fashion designer but a globally recognised brand. The Karen Walker brand is available in 42 countries, 200 cities and 1020 stores including retail icons like Barneys New York and Liberty London. Karen was guest speaker at the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s recent Velocity $100K Challenge finals and shared her advice for entrepreneurial success in a time of rapid change.

“The fashion industry is all about change and looking to the future”.  Karen explained all industries have to think about change and we are currently facing the biggest revolution we have ever seen – the digital revolution.

The current digital revolution is causing a paradigm shift impacting on every part of our lives. “The way to survive a revolution” says Karen “is to be a leader”. However being a leader covers a wide range of concepts. Karen’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is that they need to:

  • Lead with ideas
  • Lead by doing whatever it takes to create the idea
  • Lead by not settling for close enough
  • Lead by valuing the detail but also seeing the whole chessboard
  • Lead by having a unique point of view
  • Lead by taking the luck when it comes your way
  • Lead by taking risks and being brave
  • Lead by being a culture not just a product
  • Lead your customer so they’ll stop … maybe even shop
  • Lead by being nimble
  • Lead by surrounding yourself with people who get it
  • Lead in a way that allows you to swim with the waves rather than against them
  • Lead by making a difference

Being a leader drives all aspects of the Karen Walker brand. Karen has a strong belief in standing out by being original and authentic. Reacting to the ubiquitous use of celebrity endorsement in brand promotion, the Karen Walker brand used their own version of ‘celebrity’ when they cast rescue dog Toast (who has her own large following on social media) as the face of their 2015 eyewear campaign.

Collaboration is also a key part of the success of the Karen Walker brand. Not buying in to the fashion industry cliché model, Karen Walker collaborated with New York photographer Ari Seth Cohen. Ari’s blog, Advanced Style, celebrated the fashion forward style of “the senior set” in New York, dispelling the view that fashion was just for the young. Karen has creatively collaborated with Ari on campaigns for eyewear and jewellery starring incredible women between the ages of 62 – 93.

However, the Karen Walker brand doesn’t just represent her unique, directional and elegant design ideas it also represents a strong commitment to social responsibility. Ethical values of responsibility, uniqueness, quality and connection are the drivers behind everything that Karen does. When you purchase a Karen Walker product you can be assured that the materials are of high quality, ethically sourced and that no child labour was used in its manufacture.

The final word from Karen on leadership is the value of making a difference and giving something tangible back. The Karen Walker brand gives back through the United Nations’ ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative, working with artisans in Kenya to create pouches for her eyewear collection. Kenyan artisans who worked on the Karen Walker pouches starred as models in the 2014 Karen Walker Eyewear campaign which highlighted the work of the Ethical Fashion Initiative.

The important thing for aspiring entrepreneurs to keep in mind, says Karen is “you’ll never be ready”. Take the opportunities that you are presented with, take risks and be brave.

Karen Walker – Thriving in a digital revolution
Karen Walker – Thriving in a digital revolution

social media

With her brand being worn by celebrities such as Lady Gaga, Lorde, Gigi Hadid and LeBron James, Karen Walker has become not just an iconic New Zealand fashion designer but a globally recognised brand. The Karen Walker brand is available in 42 countries, 200 cities and 1020 stores including retail icons like Barneys New York and Liberty London. Karen was guest speaker at the Centre for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s recent Velocity $100K Challenge finals and shared her advice for entrepreneurial success in a time of rapid change.

“The fashion industry is all about change and looking to the future”.  Karen explained all industries have to think about change and we are currently facing the biggest revolution we have ever seen – the digital revolution.

The current digital revolution is causing a paradigm shift impacting on every part of our lives. “The way to survive a revolution” says Karen “is to be a leader”. However being a leader covers a wide range of concepts. Karen’s advice to aspiring entrepreneurs is that they need to:

  • Lead with ideas
  • Lead by doing whatever it takes to create the idea
  • Lead by not settling for close enough
  • Lead by valuing the detail but also seeing the whole chessboard
  • Lead by having a unique point of view
  • Lead by taking the luck when it comes your way
  • Lead by taking risks and being brave
  • Lead by being a culture not just a product
  • Lead your customer so they’ll stop … maybe even shop
  • Lead by being nimble
  • Lead by surrounding yourself with people who get it
  • Lead in a way that allows you to swim with the waves rather than against them
  • Lead by making a difference

Being a leader drives all aspects of the Karen Walker brand. Karen has a strong belief in standing out by being original and authentic. Reacting to the ubiquitous use of celebrity endorsement in brand promotion, the Karen Walker brand used their own version of ‘celebrity’ when they cast rescue dog Toast (who has her own large following on social media) as the face of their 2015 eyewear campaign.

Collaboration is also a key part of the success of the Karen Walker brand. Not buying in to the fashion industry cliché model, Karen Walker collaborated with New York photographer Ari Seth Cohen. Ari’s blog, Advanced Style, celebrated the fashion forward style of “the senior set” in New York, dispelling the view that fashion was just for the young. Karen has creatively collaborated with Ari on campaigns for eyewear and jewellery starring incredible women between the ages of 62 – 93.

However, the Karen Walker brand doesn’t just represent her unique, directional and elegant design ideas it also represents a strong commitment to social responsibility. Ethical values of responsibility, uniqueness, quality and connection are the drivers behind everything that Karen does. When you purchase a Karen Walker product you can be assured that the materials are of high quality, ethically sourced and that no child labour was used in its manufacture.

The final word from Karen on leadership is the value of making a difference and giving something tangible back. The Karen Walker brand gives back through the United Nations’ ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative, working with artisans in Kenya to create pouches for her eyewear collection. Kenyan artisans who worked on the Karen Walker pouches starred as models in the 2014 Karen Walker Eyewear campaign which highlighted the work of the Ethical Fashion Initiative.

The important thing for aspiring entrepreneurs to keep in mind, says Karen is “you’ll never be ready”. Take the opportunities that you are presented with, take risks and be brave.


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