Karen Walker teamed up with the UN’S Ethical Fashion Initiative to commission Kenyan artisans to make screenprinted & beaded pouches for her Summer 2014 eyewear collection. some of the artisans involved – machinists, cutters, tailors, production managers, metal workers and members of the Maasai group who create the beading work – are featured in the campaign, which was shot by photographer Derek Henderson (who also shot her previous campaigns).

Ethical Fashion Initiative connects the fashion business with artisans in Africa and Haiti. We provide work for marginalized people who have a strong desire to change their lives. We make it possible for the fashion world to embrace the skills of artisans in the developing world. We guarantee that every beader, every embroider earns not a survival wage, but a decent wage, which allows them to live in a dignified way.

the sunnies are, of course, rad (they will be available in early February) but i just love, love this campaign. and i look forward to seeing more influential fashion houses working with initiatives like this. behind the scenes images courtesy of The New Zealand Herald. Karen Walker x Kenya Karen Walker x Kenya Karen Walker x Kenya Karen Walker x Kenya Karen Walker x Kenya Karen Walker x Kenya Karen Walker x Kenya Karen Walker x Kenya Karen Walker x Kenya Karen Walker x Kenya Karen Walker x Kenya Karen Walker x Kenya Karen Walker x Kenya Karen Walker x Kenya


  1. The shades are the sh*t, the lady in the middle reminds me of Iris Apfel in hers! I hope the models were allowed to keep their shades, that group shot of the men in theirs, priceless!

  2. These are such fun glasses, and so beautiful when paired with real people wearing them. I love this!

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  5. I have a pair of Karen Walker sunnies which I adores (Helter Skelter); however, seeing this campaign makes me like both them and Karen Walker even more.

    The reflections in the glasses are especially beautiful, particularly the last one where her glasses reflect sky and fields for days.

  6. I didnt intend to be offside or controversial. I honestly found the visuals beautiful however the other feeling was too strong to ignore. I appreciate the fact that the Kenyan craftsmen were given a chance to show off their talent and make some money.
    But I feel the photo campaign was in bad taste.

    Looking at the photos, one can see that those people probably make less money per month than the price of those sunglasses.

    This reminds me of a fashion shoot that was done by Vogue in India, when they made poor people wear or hold expensive Fendi and Hermes items. Its in bad taste.

    And I guess I’m kind tired of designer’s ie using Africans as publicity stunts, they receive publicity and alot of the time, its ethical contribution never sustainable.

    I apologise for the long comment but I felt the need to explain myself and comments are also meant to start meaningful conversation right? And not only “omg thats so cool” type comments.

    • i understand and i appreciate your reply, i suppose i was just taken aback by the comment because i didn’t know WHY you felt that way. it is a valid point and i’m glad that you commented. i did not, however, get that feeling from these pics – that’s why i posted the story, i just had an overwhelmingly positive reaction to it. i would never post something that i believe objectifies people or leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and i’m sorry that you felt that way looking through the blog.

      edit: i’d also like to say that while i also find the Vogue campaign you mentioned in terribly bad taste, i don’t think the two can compare – since the Kenyan people were involved with the project and not just “poor people made to pose with designer objects”. also the Ethical Fashion Initiative states, “we guarantee that every beader, every embroider earns not a survival wage, but a decent wage, which allows them to live in a dignified way” and the fact that they are then also featured in the visual campaign is a positive thing to me.

      BUT maybe i am too much of an optimist!

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  8. I love the photography and the ideals of working with the UN ethical fashion, but I really want to know how much the artidans people were paid to be “models”. Was it equivalent to the amount you would pay for a model through a European agency? If not Thando is right, and these people have been used.

  9. These photos are stunning, because the people and landscapes are just that. But I have to agree with Thando, and also wondered whether Karen Walker’s previous campaign using kids was, well, using them because they’re cheaper? Even though in this campaign the people photographed also include the artisans. I would still feel more comfortable knowing (a la Kara Burns), that they are being paid amply for their work as models. I think Karen Walker’s designs are fantastic, heck, she even lives a few blocks away from me and I buy her clothes (second hand anyway)! But I have a hunch that they’re still being paid pittance for their work, nothing for the modelling work. Would be great to be wrong!

    • yes i really hope that they were paid standard rates, too – but i’d like to give her & her company the benefit of the doubt, especially since they have an ethical bent… perhaps i should just email them and ask.

  10. It would be great to find out. The more I think about it and about how egalitarian and ethical kiwis are, the more I suspect that indeed the intention was not to objectify any more than any other models. Which is, let’s face it, all about objectification and product selling no matter how beautiful and artistic! Make no buts about it, Karen Walker and her husband who is an ad-man not just for her but a former company director, know exactly what they’re doing.

    • i suppose the fashion world is not exactly selfless (and i know that is an understatement), but i still think it’s awesome for ordinary people to be models – whether they are people who live in first world countries or third world countries… i’d also like to think that the people featured in the photos know what they’re doing, and they had a choice – or at least that they aren’t pawns in some big fashion game. hey, want to be featured in our campaign? hell yes! that would be my reaction, anyway.

      again, perhaps i am too much of an optimist ;)

  11. Optimism encouraged at all times! I also thought I read somewhere that some of the models were friends of someone, maybe the artisans. And sometimes people just love getting their photo taken. Either way, these photos are just stunning because the people are, no argument there.

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  13. To answer the questions around the models and their remuneration:

    – The models were the artisans involved in the Ethical Fashion Initiative who produce the sunshade pouches for Karen Walker. They are part of the Ethical Fashion Initiative, which connects artisans from marginalised settings to fashion companies with the objective of creating jobs.

    – Karen Walker paid as much as it would cost to produce a campaign elsewhere. Part of the contribution went to pay the “models” and the other part for a community-project (so those artisans not involved in the campaign could also benefit from the project). The community project is being managed by the Ethical Fashion Initiative team in Kenya.

    – Everyone who took part in the campaign did so on a voluntary basis. The idea behind this project was to celebrate the energy and potential of these artisans, and to make them seen by the rest of the world.

  14. Miss Moss….thank you for responding to Thando’s comment. I didn’t quite understand either but I do now after having read her explanation. And Thando thank you for that insightful observation..even though it is unfounded here thanks to Karen’s explanation. Vogue’s shoot was in EXTREMELY POOR TASTE and gave no thought..as you did Karen…to not only the image they portrayed but none to the people. How insulting. Karen I love, love, love, what you do and are doing. I love the dictates of The Fashion Initiative and I must learn more about it. I’ve loved clothes since I began dressing myself at the tender age of 5! LOL! I so appreciate being able to light my eye upon stunning clothes and accessories from around the globe and thanks to people like you Karen I feast! Thank you for all you do. Thank you for your heart.

  15. I’ve just finished looking at Karen Walker sunglasses and I have to admit I was STUNNED at the price. I wonder who gets the money for these and just how expensive they are to make. They’re beyond the price that a “normal” person could afford and are in the “rare air” of the only ones who can afford them. Which is too bad. Because I’d love a pair. I am in LOVE w/them! LOL! It seems to me to defeat the purpose of the Initiative in that you’re helping others do wonderful things to empower people and enable them to support themselves. But the only ones able to afford the items are the rich. Not the average person who works an average job. Talk about wages. The price is the weekly wage of some. If they’re lucky. So whereas I am all in favor and admiration for what the Initiative stands for…it’s too bad that the clothes and accessories are out of reach for most of the general population. And that makes me sad. :(

  16. Cailyn Harley Reply

    I’m in awe. Hands down to Karen Walker and his marketing team who thought of this concept. Take away the collaboration and I think the collection would just be its normal pretty, but the advocacy and Kenya’s artists really puts the value way up high – which is reasonably legit. I think this is what Hub Clothing has mentioned in their blog about how we “Come as we are”.

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