Fash­ion de­signer Karen Walker on the al­lure of big old cities.

The fash­ion de­signer on the al­lure of big old cities, and the power of neg­a­tive space.

Gourmet Traveller (Australia) - - Nov -

Just back from… Four weeks, pos­si­bly the long­est trip I’ve ever done, in the US and Canada, launch­ing our col­lab­o­ra­tion with Madewell in NYC, then hol­i­day­ing with fam­ily in the Hud­son Val­ley, Toronto and LA.

Next up…

Lots of do­mes­tic travel around New Zealand, to great spots I don’t nor­mally get to, and then to Shang­hai for the first time.

Grow­ing up in Auck­land spoilt me in terms of har­bours.

I set the bar very high. I only re­ally feel com­fort­able in a city by the sea and feel most at home in cities with a har­bour. Auck­land is small and rel­a­tively young, so when I travel I want to go to cities that are big or have a strong his­tory of ar­chi­tec­ture, art and cul­ture. Lon­don, Paris, Rome, New York – they tick all the boxes.

When I was a child our fam­ily trav­elled once a year,

at a time when travel wasn’t as ac­ces­si­ble as it is now. My fa­ther was an early player in the travel in­dus­try, open­ing one of the first travel agen­cies in New Zealand in the 1950s. I grew up with that love of get­ting on a plane. Our fam­ily trips were never overly in­trepid – Aus­tralia, the Pa­cific is­lands, LA – but they opened my eyes.

My first in­de­pen­dent trip was to New York.

I was 18 or 19, and it opened up the world in a whole new way. I saw a big city for the first time. It re­ally lit the flame for me – I thought, “wow, I have to do more of this”.

As the founder and de­signer of a fash­ion la­bel, trav­el­ling is a big part of what I en­joy about my job.

Me­dia trips, store vis­its, de­sign meet­ings and col­lab­o­ra­tions – I’ve de­signed my busi­ness, job and ca­reer in such a way that I get to travel to places I love and places I’ve never been.

I al­ways make sure I have a cer­tain amount of dead space dur­ing the day when I travel.

I like to have two hours built into my itin­er­ary that might be for do­ing yoga or go­ing to an art gallery. I tire of fran­tic, non-stop travel so I make sure, for my well-be­ing, that there’s time to just breathe.

I’m ex­tremely or­gan­ised.

I like to be com­fort­able. I’m not in­trepid in any way. I’m not a thrillseeker. I’ll never go back­pack­ing or stay in hos­tels. I like to have some­one wait­ing for me at the ar­rival hall. It’s just how I roll.

Good skin­care prod­ucts are some­thing I al­ways pack.

It’s im­por­tant when you’re in air-con­di­tion­ing on planes and mov­ing be­tween cli­mates; I use Os­mo­sis Skin­care. I also al­ways pack my own lit­tle black um­brella – it means I don’t have to schlep around an um­brella with the ho­tel logo on it. That’s the best way to stand out, right?

Travel frees my mind.

It gives it a bit of elas­tic­ity and al­lows me to think openly. It gives me neg­a­tive space – sit­ting in the Koru club lounge, you can gaze into the sky and al­low your brain to go into neu­tral. Or in the back of a car from Heathrow into the city just look­ing at the land­scape. In­spi­ra­tion can come from any­where.

The most im­por­tant thing, es­pe­cially if you’re go­ing to a place again and again, is to stay cu­ri­ous.

Cu­rios­ity is part of my na­ture and a very im­por­tant part of my job. You need to re­tain that cu­rios­ity to find what’s new in a city you might have been to a thou­sand times.

My ideal trip is go­ing to a large, old city

with fam­ily and catch­ing up with a few good friends along the way – sur­rounded by cul­ture, beauty and food, and hav­ing time to ex­plore with­out any agenda.

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