Karen Walker Atelier

As she prepares to release nine new styles for Karen Walker Atelier, beloved New Zealand designer Karen Walker explains what’s changed about her bridalwear offering, and what’s stayed the same.

If princessy brides still exist in 2023, they’re not showing up at Karen Walker’s door. “Our bride isn’t the bridezilla sitting at the top table by the huge ridiculous cake,” she says, smiling from an armchair in her Auckland home. “We make real clothes for real girls.”

Walker designs for the kind of bride who will style her dress with sneakers, have the gall to walk into her wedding looking incredible in a veil akin to sculpture, or who is already thinking about how she will restyle her wedding attire to wear it again.

Karen Walker brides are also apparently happy to order their bespoke wedding dress online — about half of her dresses are shipped overseas. “It sounds hard but it seems to work really well. I guess a lot of our styles are not tricky.”

Karen Walker Atelier launched in 2019 with refined styles that reflected the easy elegance Walker is known for, but that also nudged bridalwear along a bit, daring it to be a bit cooler. Alongside the jaw-dropping gowns, there was impeccable suiting and fantastic short, structural veils that feel more like millinery.

Over the years, she has kept evolving her bridalwear, partly to reflect her customers’ needs and partly out of her own need to keep things fresh, to offer women something they will want before they know it themselves.

Her latest release includes multiple options for those wanting to style a look from separates: a statement skirt and top, two silk camisoles (one plain, one ruffled).

Walker is looking forward to seeing how people style these new camis. “You could put them with cream stovepipe pants and a pair of cream heels. Or sneakers. Or cream Birkenstocks – just keep it real! They might style it with a big, gorgeous luxe skirt. Or I could see it with a pair of blue jeans.”

For traditionalists and romantics, the three new gowns in Karen Walker Atelier will be irresistible. Besides The One gown, which involves a great big bow at the front and masses of taffeta to sweep about in, there’s the Poppy gown, a simple style with a sundress feel, made dramatic by the addition of boning through the bodice. There’s the Always gown, a full-length frock made with 17 metres of delicate dot tulle.

And then there are a further two incredible, sculptural headpieces. “A lot of veils are just what you think of when you think of a veil,” Walker says. “We’ve taken a more sculptural, botanical approach. It’s fun! The new Bloom dot veil is like a giant, dotty magnolia.”

For all the newness, some things remain the same: the luxurious fabrics from a Spanish couture textile house, and absolutely lavish, dramatic amounts of it. Tulle is gathered until it looks ready to explode. The One gown involves a silk strengthened with polyester so that “it looks like it could stand up on its own – in a good way.”

And what’s also still there, after four years of dressing so many women, is the reverence for each bride’s special moment, “and the thrill of being part of that”.

“It’s quite something to be invited to be part of someone’s day,” Walker says. “There’s some weight that comes with that. They’re not just wandering in to buy a t-shirt.

“You get one go. And we feel that. We do our very best to make sure it’s just right.”

Karen Walker Atelier is available by appointment; each piece is made bespoke for the client, and the price includes full-service fittings. Learn more by visiting karenwalker.com or @karenwalker.