Karen Walker

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Lister Building, 9 Victoria Street East

The Lister Building in Victoria Street East is the birth place of Karen Walker. Here in a small studio apartment an international recognised fashion label had its earliest beginnings.

Karen Walker had left school to pursue her ambition to be a fashion designer and in 1988 was studying at the New Zealand College of Fashion on Karangahape Road. The programme there was well suited to her drive to get on with it, with half day classes that allowed her to work part time and develop her skills at her own pace. By her second year she had met Mikhail Gherman, her future husband and business partner and she had moved in with him in the Lister Building. It was here that she began to test her design ideas for their commercial appeal. Working from the kitchen table she started with a shirt inspired by menswear but made in feminine floral printed fabric. It encapsulated the aesthetic that has become the signature of her brand – and it sold.

From here Karen made and wholesaled a limited range of high casual garments to boutique retailers and in 1993 she opened a flagship store in Balm Street, Newmarket. Today Karen Walker is a total look label, her clothing line complimented by everything from eyewear to umbrellas.

From the modest circumstances of this address Karen Walker spent the next 30 plus years building a fashion identity that has become a household name here, while her influence globally can be seen in such things as her recent collaboration with Disney.

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