april walker by Bernarda Chiriboga March 1, 2021
If not the first, April Walker is one of the pioneers of streetwear fashion. She is, in fact, the first woman in the lane of urban menswear and, the first woman designer to secure endorsements with legends like Tupac, Biggie, and Notorious B.I.G.
Thus, when it comes to streetwear, forget about Supreme or Stussy, it is Walker Wear that should first come to mind. Because besides being one of the first explorers of urbanism in fashion, Walker Wear is actually one of the founding brands of streetwear culture.
April Walker is not only a creative but, an entrepreneur. Elements that are both rooted in her DNA partly because of her father, and partly because of Brooklyn.
When April was a child, she saw first hand the powerful coalition of creativity and entrepreneurship. Her father was in the music business managing Jazz musicians. Thus, April grew up watching him “beat his own drums.”
Walker went to school studying communications and business. Later, she took a job at American Express only to realize that she was meant to own her own business and not work for anyone else.
Like all children in this world, she had fed on all the creative and entrepreneurial energy her father had radiated.
Thus, at only 20 years old, she became an entrepreneur. Yet, it wasn’t until a visit to Dapper Dan’s in Harlem, that everything clicked: she was to become a fashion, streetwear entrepreneur.
“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.”April Walker, The Source Magazine, 2015
In 1987, Walker opened her first clothing business at her home: Fashion In Effect. Only one year later, in 1988, she opened her first clothing shop on Greene Avenue in Brooklyn.
Later, noticing an ongoing trend in the Brooklyn streets, in 1990 she launched Walker Wear — one of the first official streetwear brands. And became the first one to open distribution doors which commanded millions of sales.
Soon, she was working with celebrities such as Snoop Dogg, Biggie, Tupac, Aaliyah, and Run-DMC among others. It became the brand directly linked with Hip Hop’s culture and history.
“If you are a good business person and a creative, you would learn to give them [the people] what they want. You are never bigger than your audience or your fans. And the way I stayed creative is by doing custom pieces and limited editions”April Walker, Vibe Magazine 2015
In this manner, April Walker became one of the firsts to be responsible for sharpening the streetwear culture that emerged in the NYC ’90s.
Thus, she has written books and appeared in several documentaries, including the award-winning “Remix: Hip Hop x Fashion,” detailing the emergence of the category.
Her efforts in both fashion and hip-hop have made her a key player in streetwear style formation. And it is her history and background as a designer that makes her advocate the roots of this now popular category.
She wrote an essay for Medium Magazine, “The Fashion Industry Needs A Hard Reset — Especially for Black Designers.” And here, she details the fundamental lack of Black representation and Black spending power.
More importantly, she highlights the ironic fact that while Black creatives are largely for creating this multi-billion dollar industry, they are largely unrecognized.
Thus, already being a pioneer and a streetwear designer herself, April Walker has also become a guardian and defender of the roots of this fashion style category.