A Conversation with Karen Walker

What would you ask your favourite designer if you got to meet her?

When I rushed casually sashayed with Tinks into Karen Walker’s  recent perfume launch at Myer, I hadn’t dared to contemplate the question properly, as I wasn’t certain that I’d get to speak with her at all. However, being the enigmatic super-duo that we are (on our third glass of bubbly), we managed to hold court with the designer for a longer moment than we expected. Face to face, Karen Walker personified her brand philosophy perfectly. She was graceful, affable, and funnier than I imagined. It’s hard to believe that she’s been running her brand for twenty-seven years. Here’s what we talked about…

Karen Walker Eau de Parfum

From the outset, Walker felt that if they were to do fragrance, they would to do it properly, or not at all. She didn’t want to end up with juice that’d been hastily formulated in some ‘bathtub laboratory’. So they (Walker, with business partner and husband Mikhail Gherman), approached Charabot, the oldest perfume house in the world (est. 1799), in the renowned fragrance capital of Grasse, in France.

Over the past two years she immersed herself in the fragrance making process, earning status as a “gifted nose” with the experts at Charabot, a badge of honour she proudly accepts.

The three fragrances, A, B and C, are inspired by rich-smelling white flowers like gardenia, other tropical varieties, and some of her favourite spices. She explained that having three allows for wearing them at different times of day, to suit our moods, whatever the occasion. This layered style threads her fashion, eyewear, home wares and fragrance lines together to tell a story.

It was during this conversation that I knew my dear friend’s knowledge on the subject could finally shine through. Tinks asked Karen if she’d read The Perfect Scent by Chandler Burr. She hadn’t, and proceeded to write it in her diary, while he talked her through the story. Not only has he read the book, but he attended a Melbourne talk by Mr. Burr, took us one sunny day to Chandler Burr’s sensory exhibition at NGV called Hyper-Natural: Scent from Design to Art.  It was an absolute pleasure to listen to my friend finally get to wax lyrical on one of the many style topics he immerses himself in and, quite honestly, lives for.

Karen Walker Eau de Parfum – In Words (though you really must whiff them yourselves)

A Fruity – cassis, crushed mint leaves, grapefruit, rose and green tea.

B Floral – white rose, praline, sambac jasmine, tonka bean and vanilla

C Exotic Sensual –  gardenia, sandalwood, amber and musk

Karen Walker A, B, and C is only available in New Zealand department stores, exclusively at Myer in Australia, and Harvey Nichols in the UK.


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