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Issue 17 Out Now

Designer Interview: Ken Walker of K. Walker Collective

Ken Walker

Ken Walker has inspired native Detroiters since his first show in 2018 with his streetwear-inspired, modern luxury brand, K. Walker Collective.

K. Walker Collective is a brand set apart by its unique approach to high fashion streetwear, offering bold garments, following culture instead of trends, and engraining longevity into every design process.

Since Walker was 14 years old, he had been planning his brand. He always knew what he wanted to build, always K. Walker. He started his journey at the Detroit School of Arts, where he studied music production inspired by designers in the hip-hop industry. “A lot of designers in the hip-hop industry that I look up to, like Jay Z, Pharrell, and Russel Simons, there was a lot of hip-hop culture tied to clothing. At the time, I thought I would be a producer and have a clothing brand.” He had always been inspired by Ralph Lauren designs, frequently getting written up in high school for wearing polos with the Ralph Lauren horse. 

When he did not excel at music production, he switched to Michigan State University, where he studied business and marketing. In 2012, he switched his major to advertising, which he describes as a “pivotal moment” and inspired him to start working on launching his brand. Walker told me, “I did a study abroad in Italy, and it just inspired me to do everything that I have done so far. It was a trip that went around Italian marketing and luxury, and I came back home and found my old K. Walker notebook, and I just took all of that and put a plan in place.”. He then got caught up in the corporate world but always had the itch that creatives get when they know they are not in the right place. 

During this time, he dealt with a lot of anxiety. He began going to therapy, where his therapist explained the root of his anxiety as he was putting his all into a company he was not passionate about when he needed his own place to pursue his dreams. When talking about this journey, Walker stated, “I always call it the ‘self-love journey’ when I started making decisions for myself, and I decided to approach this boldly. It has been so beautiful to see what the brand has grown into because I took that chance and believed in it.”.

K. Walker Collective 

I was curious to find out the mission of K. Walker Collective and what message Walker wants to convey to his customers. He explained that his goal has always been to “champion the audacious spirit we all possess.” Moving forward, in the next 10 years, Walker wants his brand to be a renowned global fashion house that “does more than provide products, but gives experiences, and creates a lifestyle that inspires people to show up boldly in who they are.”

I attended the Detroit Fashion Choice Awards earlier this month, where K. Walker Collective was up for a Men’s Streetwear Choice Award. Unfortunately, the brand did not receive the award, and I was interested in discovering how he deals with disappointments and frustrations within the industry. Walker responded, “A lot of the triumphs for me is finding success in the progress, to get awards and receive recognition is great, but its not the measurement of how I look at success. The true award is knowing that I created something I envisioned for so long, and people love it.”

K. Walker Collective 

As a Detroit local with a storefront in Midtown, I figured that the Detroit community played a pivotal role in the success of K. Walker Collective. Walker describes Detroit as a place where luxury has always been engrained, even if it doesn't always receive the recognition it deserves. Walker told me, “Detroit-ers support their own, they wear things from Detroit-based brands with pride. Detroit provided me with many opportunities to keep my brand and grow here.”

As Walker works to expand the K. Walker brand, he often struggles with perfectionism and delegation. Ken told me that it is difficult to trust other people with the excellence he aspires to in his brand, but is “growing to be more open to who I bring along, and put more trust in these people to help expand the vision and the brand.”.

K. Walker Collective 

Walker’s advice to young designers? Focus on the ‘why?’. He told me, “Your mission will always evolve, but you must focus on why you created it. I always tell any new designer or creative to start with ‘why?’. The why is what will keep you going when things get hard.”.

As a brand that strives to give back to the community in which it was born, K. Walker Collective is starting its second cohort in their “Kollective,” in which a portion of their Midtown store is opened to other small businesses to sell its goods and receive exposure. Join them on March 15 to celebrate the Kollective, shop for new K. Walker designs, and give back to the Detroit community and its creatives. 

K. Walker Collective is a brand that will continue evolving, growing, and pushing consumers to show up boldly. To follow Ken Walker and his brand on their journey, follow on social media @kwalkerco. 

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