Karen Walker, Fashion and Fragrance Designer

Karen Walker has long been the Queen of cool. The New Zealand fashion designer is forever chic and modish; continually stamping her own unique eccentricity on all that she does. With an empire comprising clothing, accessories, eyewear and jewellery, the designer has recently added fragrance to her repertoire. Karen herself is always meticulously groomed; favouring a bright lip, super sleek cropped cut and a bold winged line - which makes her already piercing cerulean eyes pop even further.

The darling of design recently threw open the doors of her divine Auckland home for us, disclosing a devotion to cosmeceutical skincare, regular yoga and the creative formulations behind her new fragrance line.


"There was never a Plan B.

In my second year at fashion school I put $100 into a bank account and with that made a shirt that I sold to a friend.  It just grew from there. [I love] creating.

 

I go for chic with a little eccentricity.

For a night out I always start with an Osmosis Mask to get the skin glowing. Then makeup wise it’s normally a clean, clear base, maybe a flick on the eye or a bright lip. I love Topshop’s Matte Lip Bullets, especially their intense oranges. I also love Osmosis’ Show Stopper Lipstick – another bright orange. 

Karen's style is translated in her home with bold artwork

Karen's style is translated in her home with bold artwork

 
sculptural white forms pop against floating shelves

sculptural white forms pop against floating shelves

I like makeup when it’s one cool little idea

Not layers and layers all over the place. I’m not a big fan of lots and lots of makeup. I do find an eye flick is always helped by using a credit card as a guide for a straight line.

 

I didn’t think about [beauty] too much growing up.  

Though, having said that, I was a child of the 70s and I found all of the Charlie’s Angels deeply, deeply glamorous. [And] Charlotte Rampling, because she makes it look so effortless. Ageing is going to happen so you might as well relax with it. It is what it is. 

 

Every three weeks I get an Osmosis facial 

At Room Nine in Auckland. It’s the best. I use Osmosis everything for cleansing, moisturising etc and usually some sort of mask or scrub thrown in for good measure. [I go to] Chuan Spa for massages. 

 

I feel most beautiful when everything’s off my face 

And it’s just me and my yoga mat because it’s about nourishing. My beauty look is simple and based on health. If the beauty’s not coming from the inside nothing can add it to the outside- make sure what’s inside is healthy and the rest will follow.

karen is a devout fan of osmosis skincare and kevin murphy hair

karen is a devout fan of osmosis skincare and kevin murphy hair

 
the designer is disciplined with her vegetarian diet and iyengar yoga practice

the designer is disciplined with her vegetarian diet and iyengar yoga practice

I do Iyengar yoga every day. 

My school is Simply Yoga and I go to classes three times a week and do practice at home outside of that. I also try to get one tennis game and one coaching session a week on the court. I relax by playing with my little girl, reading, yoga, tennis, cooking and meditation.

 

I’ve been vegetarian for 30 years…

And seldom touch wheat and sweets – unless it’s 80% dark organic chocolate of course. [I’m] pretty healthy – I love to cook and usually go with Bill Granger, Donna Hay or Yotam Ottolenghi. Some of my favourite dishes are Yotam’s Courgette and Cob Nut salad and Donna’s Pea and Mint soup. I have a sachet of liquid Vitamin C each day and a daily dose of calcium.

 

Almost every makeup artist I’ve ever worked with tells me I have exceptionally long eyelashes. 

Everyone has something, right? My mum taught me to keep it simple and not to over-pluck my brows.

 

I’ve got short hair 

So I make sure I’m in the chair every three weeks to keep it looking sharp. My favourite products are Kevin Murphy- the Supergoo and the Powder Puff.

karen keeps her hair in check with a cut every three weeks

karen keeps her hair in check with a cut every three weeks

 
karen walker fragrances, eyewear and beauty essentials

karen walker fragrances, eyewear and beauty essentials

 I’ve always been fascinated by how fragrance triggers and stores memories. 

It’s something we’ve wanted to do for over 10 years and we started working on it two years ago. Having worked in the worlds of ready-to-wear, eyewear, jewellery et al for many years we’re used to communicating stories in a body of work. It therefore felt natural for us to approach fragrance with the same story-telling style. Additionally though, we believe that the Karen Walker customer has multiple expressions of personality, and the trio of fragrances reflects that. 

 

We had a very clear vision for what the fragrance should make you feel. 

We also wanted to work with the best craftspeople in the world which means you have to be in Grasse. Karen Walker always likes to combine opposites so we wanted to combine our very clear, modern vision with craft, tradition, history and quality. All of these points brought us to Charabot, the world’s oldest fragrance house. Our work is always about optimism and that idea, of optimism, is at the heart of these fragrances."

 

Story by Chrisanthi Kaliviotis. Photography by Olivia Hemus. Hair by Leigh Keepa at Stephen Marr and Makeup by Paige Best.