As a Newtown local, Karen Kwok didn't have to look far when it came to deciding where she wanted to open her first shop: on busy, bohemian King Street. “You have freedom in Newtown,” says Kwok. “There’s no pretentiousness and everyone treats each other the same.”
After three years working at Zimmermann, Kwok felt it was time to dedicate more energy to teaching and to a business of her own that supports local designers. She's now a part-time lecturer at three fashion institutes, including Billy Blue College of Design, and proprietor of Acquire@Design. The former Zimmermann pattern maker invited Time Out to peruse her store, which is comprised of a sewing machine workroom, open plan studio and retail outlet. It also features a rotating display of collections from fashion and design graduates.
“They’re creative, quirky and they have interesting fabrics,” she says. “That’s what this space is for – I’m trying to help the little person.” Acquire@Design stocks casual fashion, lingerie and swimwear alongside millinery and homewares. For designers, the store is a platform to have their works displayed for consumers, all without the attendant risks that come with launching their own business.
“Having lots of diverse products will bring every kind of person off the street,” says Kwok. “That’s my whole philosophy.” Looking around, we spot graphic prints from Mynt Apparel and patterned aeroplane prints from Boho Fox. There's plenty to catch the eye, and we get to wondering – what's Kwok’s favourite piece? “I love the jewellery by Nadine Sharpe," she says, citing a translucent pink resin bangle. "[Her pieces] look like lollies.”