Karen Karam started her fashion business in 2008 and already she’s had lots of press, helped by the fact that Lily Allen and Natalie Imbruglia have worn her clothes at high-profile public events. She also has a baby due in June, so her busy life is soon to get even busier. Karen was born and brought up in Beirut and she has lived in London for the last six years. Before that, she studied at the American University of Beirut and got an honours degree in psychology.
She says she can remember wanting to be a designer from as young as the age of 10 and she got closer to her dream when she graduated from Central St Martins College of Art and Design in 2006. She then spent a whirlwind year doing placements with Alexander McQueen, Chloe and John Galliano.
‘I first went to the Portobello Business Centre when I was just starting to set up the business. I had already created my first collection. I already had the design skills from my time at Central St Martins, I’d already designed my first collection. But I was lacking many of the business skills I needed.
‘My adviser, Maria Stammers, helped me with all kinds of practical things like registering my company, getting good public relations to help and cash flow. She also helped me to get in touch with buyers, and I managed to get three for my first collection which was a really big boost.’
Her first collection, for Spring and Summer 2009 and intriguingly titled Hard Cover Candy, has just come out to critical acclaim. She describes her clothes as ‘girly and quirky’.
‘I still see Maria a lot – I’d really say I can’t live without her,’ Karen continues. ‘She’s always able to help me with the issues that I take to her. I’ve now finished my second collection for Autumn and Winter 2009 and I’ll definitely be keeping in touch with the Business Centre. I have big ambitions and I feel sure that one of the things that will help me to achieve them will be the advice and support of the Centre.
‘It’s hard to calculate the true value of the expert and professional advice that’s available for free at the Business Centre. I’ve also had much more than just practical advice – I’ve had a close relationship with my adviser which has been very supportive.