Detroit swag is nationally known. Whether it be the way we flaunt our buffs (Cartier glasses), or the heavy Carhartt coats we rock, the city’s impact on fashion in America can’t be denied. Ken Walker however, is looking to take Detroit fashion to the international level. Walker is a Detroit native with a For the second time in a row, Walker is taking his brand the K. Walker Collective out to Italy to represent the D and showcase his latest designs.

“I really wanted to make sure that people saw authentic Detroit style represented in the brand.” Walker told us in an interview, “That’s why we stayed in Detroit and I didn’t move to LA or New York like I thought I would. It’s been great to be a part of the fabric of the fashion legacy here in the city.

“You know, color has always been paramount in my design process. I go back to color all the time because what appeals to people initially is always the color of something and then it’s fabric. And then it’s putting in a mindset of how could you wear it? How do they see themselves? I never want someone to look at something and go, ‘Oh, I can never pull that off.’ “

Ken Walker, Photo Courtesy of K. Walker Collective

Walker is a Detroit native who, in 2018, abandoned the marketing industry to pursue his passion for clothing design. Fast forward six years later, and Walker and his collective have earned a spot at Pitti Uomo in Italy. Since 1972, designers from across the world have attended this men’s fashion trade show in hopes of finding buyers and investors. Walker attended their summer show last year and now he’s heading back to participate in their winter show. Where he plans to further break into the European market and introduce them to the clothes and culture of Detroit.

“Last year was rewarding. We got to educate the Italian market about Detroit fashion. Detroit is a name that I think people think they know, but they don’t really tie us to fashion. They think of the automotive industry, they think of Motown music. So we were really showing them what Michigan overall has to offer when it comes to fashion.

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“I do think that American fashion, even my brand, we’re eclectic. So we pull from different regions of the world and we create something new. There’s a lot of trends that start in the UK or even Japan that the American market addresses and then we develop our innovation from that.

“So like a lot of things that Kanye did with his first Yeezy collection, that was a lot from the UK market. Wearing pastels, nude colors, the oversized shirts, like all those different things, all the aesthetics, they typically come from different regions around the world.”

Photo Courtesy of K. Walker Collective

After educating the market and learning more about the Italian scene, Walker and his collective are eager to show off their coats and outerwear to the European market. He hopes to see his product far beyond the four corners of his Midtown store, and events like Pitti Uomo are just one step in making that happen. And for anyone looking to follow in his footsteps and make a name for themselves in the crowded world of fashion like he has, Walker has a few pieces of advice.

“Anyone can make a great graphic and put it on a t-shirt. Anyone can make a nice logo that they put on everything. But have a point of view on how you see the industry and how does your product differentiates from everything that’s already out there. Give people a ‘why’. You know what I mean? I think a lot of brands, and a lot of brand owners, um, that struggle with that initially.

“Build your cohort of people who love what you’re doing in Detroit is a small big city is what I say all the time. You know, it’s very small and the ways that people connect are like three degrees of separation. It’ll blow your mind how connected we all are. So don’t burn a bridge. I think networking is always going to be key.

“And let people tell you what they want. They’ll tell you the other colors they want. They’ll tell you how they want something. They’ll tell you how you should change it. They’ll tell you the different size ranges that you should offer.”

Photo Courtesy of K. Walker Collective

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