Karen Walker's fashion rules

Karen_walker_3[Image credit: Geoff Oliver Bugbee]

New Zealander Karen Walker is speaking on the meaning of fashion. Her lessons:

"Embrace the volatility" - The fashion business is volatile. And "sometimes the only support for your conviction is the conviction with which you say it."

"Ignore the rules" - Don't pay attention to the leading voices offering their thoughts. Plunge ahead despite the fear because "you'll never be ready." She says the isolation and newness of New Zealand contributed to her work. Her country gave women the vote in 1893 and "Getting off it" and "on with it" is part of the culture. Like Craig Nevill-Manning who spoke earlier and is also New Zealander, she references the idea that with a "'number 8' wire approach" you can do anything.

"Everything inspires" - Inspiration can come from anywhere, which is important since the industry starts new every year. To prove her point, she runs through several images of her work from initial idea to finish. They're informed by cultural references mined from 1950's teen movies to the mannish styles of Diane Keaton to the pioneering spirit of Amelia Earhart.

She repeats that inspiration can come from anywhere, which is similar to the IF motto that the "answers are everywhere."

"The test of new work is whether it makes the creator nervous..." "It might be wrong, but it just may be right." She references words she heard from Bono on the moment of creative triumph. He described it as "when God walks into the room."

"Know your style" - For her it's "having the right amount of wrong."

"Know your customer" - It's "people like us." She explained that she will never do market research.

"Surround yourself with people with who will support you" - If she has to explain it for more than two minutes she'll drop the engagement.

"Building a brand is like building coral." It's a slow process, the eye can't see it, but one day you look up and you find it's beautiful.

During the Q&A, she explained how her mother and grandmother always had a sewing machine and a box of fabric around, which really inspired her to think about clothing.

Answering a branding question, she said always treat the brand and product as one in the same. Never think of them as separate entities.

That's it. I was really quite impressed with her unpretentious and can-do attitude.

Wayne