September 1, 2015
Born to Design
It is every little girl’s dream, a fashion designer for a mum and a talent to navigate the world of pattern making from as young as 12-years-old. Karen Hurley certainly was born with style and has stood out from the crowd from a young age to today, where she has taken on the world of bikini design.
Surrounded by swatches of every colour, luscious materials of satins and cottons and trendy patterns, Karen Hurley couldn’t help but fall in love with all things fashion as a little girl.
Born into the city know for classy women, Paris and with a mother as a fashion designer, it was her destiny to find a career path in the glamorous industry.
The family moved to Australia, where her father was native, when she was young and she grew up on the shores Bondi Beach and frequented Sydney’s Paddy’s Markets.
“My mother started making children’s wear and I used to help her in the business, just ironing and little things to help out,” remembers Karen.
“So I started very young and made my first garment at 16, a jumpsuit in chambray and my mother copied it and sold it at the markets.
“I just made the pattern on the floor and she sold hundreds of them.”
Looking back, Karen is overwhelmed at how far she has come in the fashion game, from a store in Sydney making beautiful dresses, to her new life in Queensland and designing bikinis for her label Mijanou.
Moving to Mooloolaba in 2012, it didn’t take Karen long to realise it was time to change her style to accommodate her new lifestyle and demand. Of course the glamorous Sunshine Coast climate went hand-in-hand with eccentric bikinis.
“I just like to create new things, something different, something that will inspire me at the time and it can be anything really,” says Karen.
I just like to make something new that no one has really seen before and seeing people get excited because it is a bit different.”
“I just like to make something new that no one has really seen before and seeing people get excited because it is a bit different.
“Yes I like it different but it still has to be wearable, sometimes I can get out of control.”
In the short time of three years Karen has grown her bikini label internationally, with her stand out garments available in the United States, Europe, South Africa and in the Middle East. She is certainly one to watch after gracing the pages of Harpers Bazaar and Russh Magazine in her first year and being awarded highly commended for a Launch Your Label 2012 design competition.
Her label, named after her aunt, is a hit in Hollywood where her designs are a stand out at a celebrity fashion store in West Hollywood as well as Israel, where her designs are stocked at hundreds of stores across the country. Her online store is sought after by Spanish and Greek fashionistas and sales are going steady in Australia.
“It is growing really fast now and I have started promoting on Instagram I am getting a lot of interest which is really good,” says Karen.
“I just seem to have the knack of knowing what people want at the right time and have the ability to keep coming up with the designs and keep changing.
“I like to change and you have to in fashion.”
All of the sexy designs are created in her home studio where she likes to come up with the concepts and draw the first drafts herself. For Karen, there isn’t a moment of the day her mind doesn’t drift of to designing, as she gets inspiration from everything around her.
“Constantly I seem to dream of bikinis,” says Karen.
“Sometimes if people are talking to me I will be off in la la land and think, ‘leave me alone, I am designing,’ because it doesn’t really stop.
“Especially when you are designing a range it is hard to think of anything else.”
Her line is one of a kind and emits Karen’s natural flair and style, offering what is on trend but always a uniqueness. Her current range proved its worth with strong support at a runway show at World Fashion Week in Paris.
“I think it is a little bit sexy but also it can be a little bit quirky,” says Karen.
“I like to mix it up and at the moment there is a real trend towards black and white, so we are doing that because that is what the girls want.
“But I do love prints and just whatever is in fashion at the moment you do have to run with.”
Constantly I seem to dream of bikinis.”
Given Karen’s extensive history in the industry, she clearly knows what she’s talking about.
Juliet in Stilettos was her fashion line before she settled on the Sunshine Coast, which was a huge success as a wholesale business with stockists across Australia.
Her first taste in fashion on her own was at her shop Girlfriends which started with her ordering in stock and finished with her creating unique designs on the top floor after completing a pattern making course.
“I think it was a struggle at first learning to sow, it was challenging but that was good,” says Karen. “Trying to make new patterns and getting new fabrics and seeing what people liked at the time.”
It might be surprising to learn with a history rich with fashion, that Karen decided at the end of school she would take on a degree in the sciences. Even with passion and a flair for fashion it was a little difficult to dress up a white coat in a sterile environment.
For a number of years she worked as a pharmacist in laboratories before she realised she wasn’t on the right path.
“I thought fashion was too hard and I should do something else because I was quite good at school,” says Karen.
“But I got bored, you know I had to wear a lab coat and safety glasses and you couldn’t talk to anyone and it wasn’t very inspiring or interesting.
“I went overseas for a while and came back and opened my first store, Girlfriends.
I think it is a little bit sexy but also it can be a little bit quirky.”
“I was just really happy to go to work every day and it was really exciting because being a chemist I was going in and struggling to get through the day, but at the shop I was meeting people and feeling inspired.”
In 2015, things certainly aren’t slowing down for Karen, as she expands her expertise into the world of lingerie in Israel. Her mind has been at work with satins, silks and laces, creating a sexy and classic new line to be sold at 17 stores across the world. With a price point spot on with Victoria Secret it is set to make a mark in the industry.
For Karen’s bikini label she is keen to get into more retail in Australia which is a tough market to crack and to just keep growing internationally. With her success so far, there is no doubt her designs will continue to gain international interest.
Harvey Nichols is next on her stockist list and she is keen to get back in their market. For the up and coming designer it is all about moving forward.
“I don’t think I ever feel like I have got it,” says Karen. “You have got to keep moving forward and you can’t rest on your laurels.”