K.Walker Collective, a lifestyle clothing brand founded by local designer and brand strategist Ken Walker, is opening its flagship store in Detroit on Saturday, Nov. 26, just in time for Small Business Saturday. A ribbon cutting will be held at the shop — located in Midtown at 4161 Cass Ave. — starting at 10 a.m. that day.
Created by Walker in 2018, K. Walker Collective offers streetwear-inspired, gender-neutral basics with elevated touches, such as embossed tees, velour sweatshirts and polo shirts, hoodies with chenille patches, satin jackets and puffer coats, and accessories.
K. Walker Collective is the first private label brand to have its own flagship store in the Midtown neighborhood.
“I aim for K. Walker Collective to be completely positioned as a trailblazing lifestyle brand, not just a clothing brand,” the Detroit native says in a press release. “I want my store to be a beacon of hope and to be creative inspiration for the youth. Community is at the core and our store will show the world that Detroit is an undeniable fashion-forward city.”
When guests walk into the 1,700-square-foot shop, they are met with a minimalistic, open-concept layout, which is what Walker envisioned.
“I like spaces where I can come in and just think about what I want to buy,” he shared during Hour Detroit’s exclusive tour of the space on Nov. 23. “I’m not a fan of cluttered spaces where I can’t maneuver. But that’s kind of the mental health aspect of it for me, because clothing should give you a sense of peace and should empower you.”
Mounted racks and shelves line the exposed brick walls, displaying apparel and accessories from both K. Walker Collective’s permanent and seasonal collections. A clothing rack near the cash wrap acts as a preview for customers to see garments that are coming soon to the shop.
Walker also set up an area at the front of the store to display the custom jersey he designed earlier this year for Motor City Cruise, the G League affiliate of the Detroit Pistons.
A rotating, curated collection of vinyls by Black artists are displayed at the back of the sales floor, where Walker intends to debut his mini vinyl store, called Ken’s Vinyl Shop, next year. “I wanted to curate Black music from every genre, and every era,” he says. Staying true to his word, shoppers can currently find records by the Four Tops (fun fact: Four Tops founding member Levi Stubbs is Walker’s great-uncle), Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, Lauryn Hill, Kendrick Lamar, and SZA.
The store also boasts a fully-stocked kitchenette located in a separate room where community events will be held. Walker is also working on opening a small coffee shop in that area — and he’s even brainstorming his own line of K. Walker Collective coffee.
“So many powerful conversations that I’ve had have been over coffee,” Walker says. “And I think I can create that as an extension of the brand.”
Opening his shop on Cass Avenue is a full-circle moment for Walker, as it’s located just two blocks aways from Detroit School of Arts, which is where he attended high school and dreamt of creating his own clothing brand one day.
“It’s surreal because in 2009, when I graduated from Detroit School of Arts and went to Michigan State [University], none of this was down here,” Walker says of the current businesses lining Cass Avenue. “It wasn’t an area [where] I saw people shopping. I didn’t see wine shops, I didn’t see ice cream parlors, I didn’t see yoga studios, I didn’t see dog parks. And I remember the first day I walked in here — it was March 1, it was on my 32nd birthday; that’s when my lease started — I knew I had a responsibility. It’s not about opening a store; people are walking into a dream that came to life. So, for me, that’s the genesis of it.”
Walker credits his network of industry professionals for helping make the flagship store a reality. In October 2021, Walker recalls stressing over finding a new location for his brand when the original spot he had in mind fell through. That month, he had a conversation with Laura Horwath, founder of Ferne Boutique in Detroit, who suggested opening in the Midtown or New Center neighborhoods.
From there, Horwath connected Walker with Susan Mosey, executive director of economic development nonprofit Midtown Detroit, Inc., who presented the Cass Avenue location to Walker with the goal of bringing more retail to the neighborhood. He fell in love with the space the moment he saw it.
“It’s an area where I do see a good mix of diversity,” Walker says, referring to the various shops in the neighborhood and its proximity to Wayne State University. “I love the different people that I see in the area.”
Overall, 2022 has been a year of elevation for K. Walker Collective. In April, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer visited Walker’s store (which was still in progress at the time) during her tour of Black-owned businesses in downtown Detroit. She left with one of the brand’s KWC Embossed Tees.
In August, K. Walker Collective received a $30,000 Motor City Match grant during the 20th round of the program, which further assisted Walker in opening his store. On a personal level, Walker became an adjunct professor this fall at College for Creative Studies, teaching fashion brand management under the university’s fashion design program. He’s also gearing up to relaunch his organization, Detroit Mental Wealth, in May 2023 for Mental Health Month
What’s next for K. Walker Collective? Keep an eye out for a resort 2023 collection and those vinyl and coffee shops within the flagship store. Walker will also be presenting his brand at Pitti Uomo, a prestigious menswear trade show in Italy, next June.
But ever the go-getter, Walker is always thinking bigger; he hopes to one day open K. Walker Collective shops in Chicago, New York, and London, as well as a creative manufacturing studio for students to learn about garment production, from design sketches to the final product.
“It’s the opening of what was once a dream, that is now reality,” Walker says of his flagship store. “For people to be immersed in the brand experience that I’ve always wanted to create.”
The K. Walker Collective flagship store will be open noon to 6 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, noon to 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and by appointment on Sunday. Visit kwalker.co for more information.