Imagine this: you’re shopping in your favorite store when an associate approaches you about doing something “special,” expressly for you. A dream come true, right?
For Dr. Roblena E. Walker, this dream is reality.
But in Walker’s case, her favorite store took it one step further: creating a collection inspired by her. A loyal New York & Company customer, Walker describes the company’s decision to use her direction in its new collection as “such a surreal moment for me…it was more like a dream come true. When they told me they wanted to do a whole collection, I was like, for me?!”
New York & Company gave Walker an unprecedented amount of influence in the creative process, allowing her to collaborate with Alejandro Blanco, the company’s vice president of design.
Walker said she had a hand in some of the conceptualization for the collection, notably choosing the color scheme. “I love colors, so I was just trying tell him the greens and the golds and the purples and the pinks,” she said. Walker also styled the lookbook for the collection.
Walker notes Blanco's attention to detail, which included mock-up sketches of the designs on figures that mimicked Walker’s natural posture and positioning. “He embodied everything about me, and it was just beautiful,” she said.
A molecular biologist by trade, Walker’s ability to conjure inspiration in others is equally matched both in the fashion and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) worlds. In her spare time, Walker runs a non-profit named Emagaha, Inc. that mentors students, particularly underserved minority students, in STEM. Walker is also a scientific instructional designer, a public health professor and a dissertation mentor. So she keeps busy, to say the least.
In Walker’s opinion, confidence in the workplace and fashion go hand-in-hand.
“I might just be having a bad day altogether. But when I put on that dress and that skirt and some heels and a nice little cuff bracelet, let me tell you, my day is turned all around,” she said. “I get a burst of energy. So that’s really my hope for this collection, that women will be empowered.”
For Walker, the importance of fashion was a tradition passed down from her elder generations, noting that her grandmother, a mother of 20 (yes, 20), always looked her best whenever she stepped out.
“My mommy and my aunty also played a vital role in [teaching me] to present my best self. Growing up in a single-parent home, my mom always told me and my sister, you’re beautiful, you’re intelligent, you’re smart. And so that level of confidence just poured into the clothes that I wear,” she said.
The nine-style collection is available online and in select Atlanta stores now.
The collection inaugurates a campaign called #IAmNYandCo. Greg Scott, CEO of New York & Company, said of the campaign, “We will continue turning to [our clients] for inspiration while, in doing so, #IAmNYandCo will give women who share a love for fashion a chance to inspire each other.”
Who knows, if you visit a New York & Company store frequently enough, you may just become the inspiration for its next collection.
(Photos: Courtesy of New York & Company)
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