Even though Ken Walker has walked into his new storefront many times, when he opened the door on Friday morning, it felt like a monumental moment.
Walker, 32, is the owner of K. Walker Collective, a Detroit-based luxury clothing brand launched in 2018. The Detroit native hosted a preview party at the space Friday night and officially opened the 4161 Cass Ave. storefront Saturday morning.
The brand sells a variety of business casual, winter attire and streetwear. Walker's brand includes winter coats, polo shirts, sweatshirts, hoodies, jackets, hats, T-shirts, shorts and hats. The space has brick walls with clothing spread out on fixtures in the spacious room. A large door can be rolled to reveal a gathering space.
"The store is so perfect for my brand because aesthetically, it was what I wanted," Walker said. "I love exposed brick walls. What I love is that you get this industrial feel, which links it to craftsmanship, which is kind of ingrained in Detroit. And a lot of businesses in the Downtown-Midtown area have a similar aesthetic. But I wanted something clean and open."
He intentionally chose to open his storefront on Small Business Saturday, the American Express-deemed business holiday that is a campaign to encourage people to shop small. Several events and promotions are taking place across metro Detroit on Saturday.
"For me, it was making a statement of the importance of shopping small," Walker said. "I think we hear that but we don't really make a strong movement about it, specifically even Black-owned businesses. Like, don't just come shopping on Black Friday for a sale. And patronize Black-owned businesses. Don't just support them."
The K. Walker Collective store comes with a unique shopping experience, where shoppers can view an iPad that shows the inventory of all of the products available on-site.
This is phase one of the store. There are plans to create a vinyl shop that will feature artists from Motown to Kendrick Lamar. Fitting rooms will be created soon. A line of candles will launch. There's a kitchenette in the backroom, where people will be able to host community events and set up a photo studio. And there are also plans to open a coffee shop, which will feature a coffee blend with his namesake.
"I'm around so many creators, photographers, models and influencers that cannot find anywhere to shoot in the city," Walker said. "Then they have to go to the suburbs, and there's just this pain point. But I could have it right here, and it's easy to separate it off while the sales floor is open."
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This specific space used to be called Cass Collective, where many small businesses hosted pop-up shops. Walker said many of the businesses in the former space now have their own storefronts, so he believes there's good juju here.
He moved his business into the space March 1, the day he turned 32 years old. The flagship store is strategically located just a couple blocks away from where he attended high school at Detroit School of Arts.
Walker has no plans to abandon his Detroit store as he expands his retail reach in the future. He hopes to open locations in Chicago, Los Angeles, Soho or Harlem, London and France.
Manifesting his future
When Walker was in the eighth grade, he wanted to be a music producer, and join the entertainment industry like his great uncle, Levi Stubbs, who was a part of Motown's Four Tops quartet. But he also wanted to have his own clothing brand much like Russell Simmons, who owned Phat Farm; Jay-Z, who owned Rocawear; and Sean "Diddy" Combs, who owns Sean John.
When he shared his dream with his middle school counselor, she recommended that he go to the Detroit School of Arts.
"That was the genesis of me creating this brand," Walker said. He still has the notebook where he wrote all of his plans for his future brand.
After finishing high school, he went to Michigan State University, where he studied advertising. He has since been featured in New York Fashion Week, sold his clothing at the now-closed Detroit is the New Black store and has had a collaboration with the Detroit Pistons' G-League, the Motor City Cruise. He is also an adjunct professor at the College for Creative Studies, where he teaches fashion brand management.
When asked what is one thing that he would tell his high school self about this current moment, Walker said he would have advised himself to write down everything.
"The things that I've written down miraculously have manifested," he said.
Contact staff writer Chanel Stitt on Twitter: @ByChanelStitt. Become a subscriber or gift a subscription.
This article originally appeared on Detroit Free Press: K. Walker Collective opens flagship storefront in Detroit's Midtown