Words by: Yvelette Stines
From The Source Magazine Issue #272 | 2017
The Mastermind Behind The Legendary Walker Wear Brand
When April Walker was a child, she saw first-hand the life and experience of an entrepreneur. “My father was in the music business and he managed jazz artists. I grew up in that space of watching him beat to his own drum. At the time I didn’t realize I was feeding off of his energy. He was very creative,” she reminisces. It wasn’t long before Walker started her own way, she became an entrepreneur at 20-years-old. She knew that owning her business would be her path in life. Walker had the beginning influences from her father, and an experience in the work force helped her quickly find her purpose. “I was in school for communications and business. I took a job at American Express and I realized from that situation I didn’t want to work for someone else. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do, but I did know I would be working for myself.”
It was a visit to Dapper Dan’s in Harlem that changed everything. “I was amazed at what they were doing. It was a custom tailoring shop and I told myself I am going to open one of these in Brooklyn.” In 1987 Walker started her clothing store Fashion In Effect out of her home, and in 1988 she opened her first clothing shop on Greene Avenue in Brooklyn. Her clothing line Walker Wear launched in the 1990s. This led her to work with many celebrities such as Biggie, the late Aaliyah, Tupac, Run-DMC, and Snoop Dogg among many others. Walker Wear is a historical clothing brand that has a strong place in hip-hop culture and history. It also paved the way for many fashion entrepreneurs. As a pioneer in the industry Walker successfully ran Walker Wear and she is also CEO of A. Walker Group a consulting firm that works with companies from footwear to fashion. She has relaunched Walker Wear and celebrating the 25th Anniversary.
The Source sat down with Walker to catch us up on her journey, share some tokens of wisdom, talk about the fashion business, and what’s next for the brand.
- What can consumers expect with the relaunch of Walker Wear?
This is our 25th Anniversary and we have a lot of exciting projects and collaborations coming up. When we were preparing for the relaunch it took 18 months of preparation and marketing. This is a new age of products, consumers, and distribution. I now have a strong digital platform and I can talk directly to the consumer. I’ve been working on a blueprint and it is falling into place well. It is important for me to work with authentic people who love the culture and want to be empowered, people who want to contribute to hip-hop and not take away from it. One of the many things I want to do with Walker Wear is empower other entrepreneurs. I want to cultivate new business owners that work with me to start and grow their business and help them figure out what they want to do in life. It is a pay-it-forward process and we need to help and empower each other.
- At the time you launched you were a young woman in a male dominated industry. Can you share your experiences, challenges, and triumphs?
I started when hip-hop as sill very intimidating, it didn’t help that I was 20-years-old and very hip-hop. I wanted to be in the menswear business and my counterparts didn’t understand. The biggest hurdle was people taking us seriously as a business. I also had a strong understanding of what was fair and I knew my self-worth. A lot of people were compromising to get ahead and I didn’t do that. It made my journey more difficult, but I didn’t allow it to stop me.
- What advice would you give to people who want to go into fashion industry?
Don’t look at the rules. There are no rules and you can create your own path. You can open up a blank book and you can say this is how and what I want to do. Just because it hasn’t been done, it doesn’t mean that it can’t be done. You have to plan it out. Another important thing is we are moving into a time where we have to go beyond doing just one thing. It is important to have a foundation, but you should build out branches. Don’t look at everything as monetary, look to see how one branch can support or strengthen another branch or root in your tree. You will realize it all connects together to have a brand.
- What is your outlook on fashion?
I see people are doing a lot of interesting things with science and fashion and that is going to be really cool with textiles and the way things will come together. There are things being done now I wouldn’t even imagine in terms of the look of fashion, it is anything goes. When I grew up it as all about matching now, the more you don’t match the cooler it looks. Fashion is also pushing the envelope. I would like to see more of that as well.
- What advice would you give your younger self?
I would tell her not to be afraid and don’t worry about what people think. I would also tell her to let your passion lead you. Don’t be pressured by money. From my experience I know for a fact that if you are fulfilling your purpose and you are doing all that you are supposed to do, the rest will fall into place and you will be fulfilled. God doesn’t fail us.
- What exciting things do you have coming up for the brand?
I am excited and honored to be part of the “Straight Outta Compton Movie.” We had a collaboration with Starter and the jacket had a placement in the movie. We are also going to do a capsule program inspired from NWA in September. We are going to be dropping our hockey shirt for Christmas. Finally, we are going to have our 25 years museum experience of Walker Wear memorabilia this will take place in Brooklyn and in Miami for Art Basel.
- Do you have a favorite quote or mantra?
I don’t have a favorite one in particular but I will share, “Teamwork makes the dream work, and your network creates your net worth.” This is true in life. You don’t have to be an entrepreneur for this to relate. You should be around good people that fulfill you and do you right, not people that bring your dreams down.
- How do you want the world to remember April Walker?
I want people to remember me as a person who gave value and service. I want to inspire people and pass on life lessons and experiences while I am here. I want to be remembered as a giver and a game changer.
Anything else you want to add?
Yes, I want to send a special shout out to Skyzoo and Torae, aka the Barrel Brothers, who were the first ones to represent Walker Wear in their video in the relaunch. I also want to shout out Joseph Sikora aka “Tommy” from Power, for being such a strong Walker Wear advocate, along with everyone else who has shown us love. We appreciate you.”