Today we’d like to introduce you to Ken Walker.
Ken, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My vision for starting my clothing company, K. Walker Collective LLC in Detroit started when I was 14 years old. Every day after school I would come home and do sketches of clothes. I eagerly dreamed of one day owning my very own clothing store, right here in my city, and serving my community one outfit at a time.
I spent four years working in retail while I attended college at Michigan State University. While in school, I spent 3 years working at Old Navy, a few months at The Gap, and 1 school semester at Express. Working at these major clothing retailers compelled me to one day run a store even more efficiently in Detroit. I was also opposed to having to make a trip to the mall in the suburbs. Working in retail taught me the true value of customer service and the impact that fashion has on every young professional’s daily life and the communities that they reside.
I used to struggle to find the perfect wardrobe in high school, college, and my first two years working in corporate America. What I realized is that I never had one specific store or destination that made me feel like I belonged. After taking classes in a 6-week study abroad program to Rome, Italy I became inspired and wrote down my vision for K. Walker Collective for the first time. Despite a great feeling of uncertainty, I knew this vision would be bigger than me and will live-on in my family for generations to come.
In June 2014, I declared that I would alleviate all of the frustrations that I and many local Detroit young professionals experience when shopping for clothes that fit our busy lifestyles. I declared that K. Walker Collective would be Detroit’s first lifestyle clothing brand, tailored specifically for the young professional who expresses their style through street, comfort, and refined looks.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
The apparel industry wasn’t a walk in the park to break into. Especially with my goal for K. Walker Collective to be made up of a wide range of cut & sew products. I had no manufacturer. No seamstress. No illustrator. Just a vision and a notebook full of concepts that I wanted to bring to life.
I was hesitant and had no idea how to launch a clothing company that was like no other in Detroit, but at the same time, it allowed me to dream big and hold onto to hope that in due time I will. While juggling a full-time job in Advertising, I spent my nights researching and looking for connections to make my entry successful. And then I came to the point of thinking that I wasn’t capable. I couldn’t draw. I didn’t have a substantial amount of startup capital and I didn’t have any acumen of how the industry works. I contemplated going to fashion school and even got accepted to FIDM (Fashion Institute of Design & Technology) in LA. But later decided to not leave Detroit. I utilized everything that I had. I took pride in my experiences within the Advertising and Marketing Communications industry. I applied all of these skillsets from strategic planning, creative development, social media strategy, consumer qualitative, and quantitative research into K. Walker Collective.
From working for renowned brands such as Cadillac, Harley-Davidson, OnStar, Snuggle, Buick, District Detroit, and Travelocity, it was only right that I overcome any thought that I wasn’t qualified to create a successful brand of my own.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
I’ve had the dream of being an entrepreneur and fashion designer since I was 14. It still amazes me how all of my experiences from being around the arts through grade school and high school all led me to cast my vision in my dorm room in the fall of 2012. Founded in 2012, K. Walker Collective is a high street, lifestyle clothing company headquartered in Detroit, MI.
During a crowded market, K. Walker Collective strives to be the standard for high-street lifestyle attire made up of a range of comfort and refined looks that many young professionals struggle to find in just one brand. We aim to alleviate the frustration that shoppers have with other designers and fast-fashion retailers by offering an impressive range of premium fashion items at an attainable price point.
Our products are designed and developed to be an equalizer to an ideal version of themselves. At K. Walker Collective, we believe every young professional already possesses the defiance, courage, and passion to be who they truly are; our products are simply reminders and co-conspirators along the courageous journey to a well-tailored life.
So, what’s next? Any big plans?
I’m working day in and night out, designing pieces that will make K. Walker Collective a go-to destination for all young professionals (ages: 21-34) who are in search for Street Attire: what they wear in they’re everyday element; Comfort Looks: what they wear in leisure time, on the weekends, while traveling and working out; Refined Looks: what they wear when they’re prepping for a big meeting, the interview for the job they’ve always wanted or on a night out with coworkers and friends.
I am also being conscious of our carbon footprint. Sustainability is the number one goal for K. Walker Collective’s growth in 2020 and beyond. I have been doing a ton of research to build relationships with local manufacturers who could play an integral role in producing future designs with organic cotton and cruelty-free materials.
Decreasing our carbon footprint is a priority that I’m passionate about and care deeply to execute. It’s imperative that we cut the costs of expensive shipping fees due to expensive tariffs and eliminate our contribution to unnecessary pollution to the planet. I am eagerly seeking innovative ways to collaborate and partner with Metro Detroit seamstresses, tailors, screenprint shops, and embroidery shops to keep everything local for our subsequent collections.
I strongly believe that Detroit has the perfect opportunity to be a global hub for sustainable apparel manufacturing and have made it my duty as Head Designer and Founder to contribute to it in every way possible. A sustainable future is our commitment for 2020 and beyond.
Excerpt of Founder & Head Designer, Ken Walker's February 2020 Feature on VoyageATL.com
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