Christopher Adams

The Business Herald’s markets and banking reporter.

Kiwi designer puts fun back into sunnies

Karen Walker director Mikhail Gherman said the company had created a unique way to market its eyewear to the world. Photo / Supplied
Karen Walker director Mikhail Gherman said the company had created a unique way to market its eyewear to the world. Photo / Supplied

Kiwi fashion designer Karen Walker says there's a point of difference that sets her range of sunglasses apart from other high-end brands - fun.

And it's an approach that appears to be paying dividends.

Since the 2005 launch of Karen Walker Eyewear, annual sales have ballooned to around 28,000 pairs, Walker said, which translates into about $10 million of revenue.

The sunglasses, with an average retail price of $329, are sold in more than 300 fashion outlets around the world, including Harvey Nichols in Britain and Barneys in the United States.

Celebrities including Rihanna, Alexa Chung, Sean Lennon and Gwen Stefani have been photographed with the eyewear.

Walker said she not only tried to inject fun into the design of the sunglasses, the same approach was applied around the marketing of the eyewear brand.

While other fashion labels use supermodels to promote their sunglasses, Karen Walker has used models decked out in vampire teeth and alien antennae.

"We had to create something that was unique," said creative director Mikhail Gherman, who is married to Walker. "In a way we've almost created a new category in the way sunglasses are marketed."

Walker said the eyewear brand had gained a lot of traction through the large amount of coverage it had received from fashion bloggers in the United States, the biggest market for her eyewear range.

Karen Walker produces its sunglasses in partnership with Sydney's Sunshades Eyewear, and the eyewear is manufactured in China.

The label's latest collection of eyewear, Karen's Little Aliens, was launched at New York Fashion Week in February.

This week, Walker is travelling to Tokyo to attend an promotional event for the collection at Restir, a Japanese fashion retailer.

She said her label had successfully launched a limited edition, premium range of eyewear, which retailed for around $400 a pair.

"The response has been phenomenal, they sold out four months before they even hit the stores," Walker said.

The label was considering producing bespoke sunglasses in the near future, and Gherman said a jeweller in Hong Kong was keen to work with the brand to start incorporating jewellery into the eyewear.

- NZ Herald

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