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A Peek Inside Her Agenda: April Walker

Founder & CEO, Walker Wear

Oct. 26 2020, Published 3:00 a.m. ET

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A Peek Inside Her Agenda: April Walker
"Do things that preserve your mind and your peace. Find the little things that bring joy and be present. All we have is the present."Quotation marks
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Run DMC, Aaliyah, Tupac, Queen Latifah, Notorious BIG, and Mike Tyson all have more than music and sports in common. That common factor lies in April Walker who is the architect behind all of their images and the styling that we know and love them for. She is seamlessly woven into the fabric of hip-hop creating looks for legendary artists and videos. As a fashion game-changer and culture shifter, April Walker inspired a lane leading to the creation of a multi-billion industry coined today as streetwear through her clothing line “Walker Wear.” 

Although you might not know April by name, you’ve more than likely come across her work. For those who need a bit of education about her impact, she is currently featured on Netflix in the award-winning documentary “The Remix: Hip Hop X Fashion.” 

April spoke with Her Agenda to share her insight on building a legacy in a male-dominated industry, and the relaunch of her brand.

Her Agenda: Congrats on your film The Remix: Hip Hop x Fashion on Netflix! 

April Walker: Yeah! Thankfully, it finally just came out to the world because it was at a lot of film festivals, but we hadn’t actually done any distribution for it. Women are and getting the recognition we long since deserved. We’re telling our stories, which is a beautiful thing.

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Her Agenda: In watching REMIX, I am curious about what gave you the courage to create a denim fashion brand in the 90s?

April Walker: I was fearless and naive. Being naive to fear served me well. I grew up in such a different time. We grew up literally in “fight or flight” mode because of the crack era, in New York City, and it looked a lot different than it does now. When we grew up, we knew about making lemonade out of lemons. Our thought process was just alright, how do we make this work? Then hip-hop or rap [came about and it felt like] oh, somebody’s speaking my language. The energy from it just was so magnetic and it was so useful. [As a young person], it was the self-expression that I needed; it was the CNN for my time, for my community that wasn’t being served. So the music was a natural thing. 

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We just have to be good to ourselves this year.

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But then we were all doing our own thing creatively, like ripping up our jeans and kind of doing homemade stuff. But we couldn’t walk into a store and purchase anything that represented who we were. I already had Fashion In Effect, which was a custom clothing shop and, I saw the reflection of the energy there. I saw proof of concept. So I knew there was a need, and we just weren’t being served. So that’s what gave me the gumption to go for it.

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Her Agenda: In REMIX, You speak about being behind the scenes, so how did you transition from Fashion In Effect to now Walker Wear?

Nothing happens without a team.

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April Walker: That transition was interesting because Fashion In Effect was a custom shop. You could get a one of one made and all these beautiful pieces. Whereas now we are mass-producing. I knew nothing about that world. It was a lot of trial and error. I knew the culture was growing because the music was growing. It was a natural progression for me. I listened to my instincts and I listened to who I had encouraging me. I started styling Run DMC and I was already making these rough and rugged suits with EPMD, with all these people, and the logo wasn’t on it yet. They were like, you need to put your logo on it. I remember Jam Master Jay saying you really need to just go ahead. 

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So my inside world knew who I was. That was the good news. The hustlers and the rappers knew, so when I decided to create Walker Wear, and even when I had Fashion In Effect, I made sure I had men working with me. A lot of it was strategy, knowing who to send on what and who not to send. When it came to creating it for the world, I held back who I was, I didn’t do press, I didn’t really talk about being the woman behind it all. It was about going from one of one’s to addressing problems that I was seeing in the fashion industry, they weren’t really making clothes for us. I just thought it made sense and that people wanted it. We were there to serve them. And that’s how it came to be.

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Her Agenda: What was your most valuable lesson during that time?

April Walker: Nothing happens without a team. I could say that half of the magic in that time period was my team. I had a dream team and it was organic and authentic. I really can say that God was the best HR for me. Honestly, it was a moment in time that was so special because we literally walked into the Golden era. 

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We can control our own stories.

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I believe in this with everything. I think the people that were building at that time with me believed in it as well. It was way bigger than us, it’s what kept us up at night is what kept us going. I think that’s the magic, if you can find people that really believe and want to really create something bigger than themselves, that’s half the battle. 

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Her Agenda: In REMIX, you speak on relaunching your brand, this time around how has the fashion industry changed the most? 

April Walker: This time we didn’t go to big department stores, we are going directly to consumers, because we have the technology. So we can cut out the middleman, we can cut out a lot of the headaches we had. As the world is changing, so exponentially fast so is fashion. We’re really in an interesting time where we can create and manifest whatever we want however we want it to look and say this is it. So if you’re delivering one pair of jeans a year, that could be it. Whatever you want it to look like you can, that’s the beautiful thing. I can pick up my bullhorn now. And I’m getting orders now from Australia, Germany, Japan and Canada. We can control our own stories. 

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Her Agenda: Not just are you a legendary fashion designer, who worked with icons but you are also an author. Your book WalkerGems: Get Your A$& Off The Couch (Volume 1) will be released this fall as an audiobook and is full of gems of wisdom. Can you tell us the inspiration behind the book and give us a few Walker Gems?

Being naive to fear served me well.

April Walker: I wrote it because of the journey and it was full of so many moments and nuggets I learned along the way. I believe we have the capacity to have the dandelion effect to grow and plant more seeds to grow. I mentor a lot of people virtually and so many reach out to me to mentor them but I don’t have the bandwidth so I thought let me do this book as a tool. It is written from the mindset of just starting out. As a creative, I noticed the biggest obstacle is ourselves. We have to get out of your own way and to believe. Once you believe you can figure out everything else. 

Walker Gem number one: Faith over fear.

Walker Gem number two: You can’t celebrate your future if you are mourning your past. You can’t look ahead if you are looking back.

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Her Agenda: I know that you are a wellness enthusiast, and you are someone who’s focused on taking time away and pouring into yourself. So how do you fill your cup in this season? Especially with everything that’s going on?

Do things that preserve your mind and your peace. Find the little things that bring joy and be present. All we have is the present.

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April Walker: Okay, so it’s great to ask me that today because today was a tough day for me. I think we just have to be good to ourselves this year. Honestly, I’m big on setting routines and doing certain mantras and practices, that’s been part of it. Some of those routine things are meditation, visualization, working out exercising, I started yoga, I do hardcore exercises. I took up bike riding, just things to keep me moving and to keep me alive and to keep me healthy. Prayers are important for me, just being silent and being still. This year, I’ve allowed myself room to just be because it’s been a tough year. So I’m doing all of those things but I’m not doing them with the rigidness that I had in the past. 

Do things that preserve your mind and your peace. Find the little things that bring joy and be present. All we have is the present.

[Editor’s note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity. Photo credit: Kelvin Bulluck. Graphics: Miguel Puello.]

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