Designer Karen Walker (centre, in blue top and trousers) backstage at the Karen Walker Autumn Winter 2014 show. Credit: Showbit

The Karen Walker girl possesses a certain je ne sais quoi. She’s cool and never fails to make an impression, without trying too hard. She is, in fact, just like Karen Walker herself. The designer’s take on mixing extremes like feminine and tomboy; tailored and street; and dark and whimsical, is a play off her own off-beat, quirky style and is well-received by both fashion critics and icons everywhere.

Walker’s namesake label has come a long way since its inception with NZ$100 and two shirts. Today, Karen Walker is found in over 30 countries and is one of New Zealand’s proudest exports. Here are four things every fashionista should know about Karen Walker.

Looks from the Karen Walker Autumn Winter 2014 collection. Credit: Showbit

1. Karen Walker is a global brand

Besides having an international presence, the label first made its runway presence in 1998 at Hong Kong Fashion Week with a collection featuring reworked business suits. Karen Walker has also shown at London Fashion Week and the designer is the first New Zealander to have a solo show at New York Fashion Week in 2000. Since then, the brand has been a permanent fixture on the New York Fashion Week calendar for every season.

2. Karen Walker does more than ready-to-wear

Karen Walker Jewellery: from left – 
Round Charm Short Necklace, US$60; Medium Enamel Bangle, US$45; and Round Charm Bracelet, US$40

Walker has branched out from her ready-to-wear line to establish her own fashion empire. The designer has launched a diffusion line called “Hi There from Karen Walker”, a whimsical jewellery line, a range of quirky eyewear – which fashion blogger Susie Bubble is a firm fan of – and even homeware and paint! Like any self-respecting fashion label, Karen Walker’s collaborations with Italian sneaker brand BePositive and Australian bag brand Benah made their debuts at the Spring Summer 2014 show.

3. Karen Walker loves tongue-in-cheek names

The brand’s first runway collection was named “Daddy’s Gone Strange” – a cheeky riff on the menswear-inspired theme. While Chanel and Louis Vuitton may take the top prize for over-the-top runways, Karen Walker is definitely a winner for consistent fun and memorable collection names that read like Enid Blyton book titles, like “Liberal and Miserable” (Autumn Winter 2004); “Living with Cannibals and other Adventures” (Spring Summer 2005); and Sea Monsters (Spring Summer 2012).

From left: Turn To Stone Dress, US$210; B Ball Top, US$210; Art School Pinafore With Pleats, US$350; and Frill Cuff Dress, US$290

4. Karen Walker casts unusual models

For the Karen Walker Eyewear line, that is. For its first summer collection, the brand teamed up with Advanced Style blogger Ari Seth Cohen to shoot women aged 65 to 92 for its campaign. The next campaign swung to the other end of the age spectrum and featured tiny tots wearing the cartoon-ish sunnies. Earlier in 2014, the New Zealand hit headlines by partnering with the United Nations’ ITC Ethical Fashion Initiative. Each pair from the Spring 2014 eyewear collection would be accompanied by screen-printed pouches made by Kenyan craftswomen. These women also starred in the campaign, by modelling the collection.

Shop Karen Walker at the SheShops online store.