Karen Davidson was born to ride. The great-granddaughter of Harley-Davidson's co-founder William A. Davidson, daughter of industrial design legend Willie G. Davidson, she degreed in fashion design, schooled in couture, joined the Motor Company in 1989 and was one of the original co-creators/visionaries of the Harley-Davidson MotorClothes line of apparel and accessories. She has been instrumental in the launch of high-level performance riding gear for men and women, and has been involved with the design, brand positioning and expansion of the Harley-Davidson apparel collections in the US, Europe and Asia. As Creative Director for General Merchandise Davidson gives direction for future development of casual and functional merchandise, which in 2018 was a $240 million business. Based in Southern California and Milwaukee, Davidson enjoys riding year-round.
What is your role as creative director for Harley-Davidson General Merchandise?
I assess macro forecasted and current trends and innovations on the casual side and the functional side of our business. On the casual side I’m really looking at macro apparel directions that involve emerging trends, fabric and silhouette proportion changes and opportunity for H-D to lead with our own uniqueness. I evaluate and choose new material, innovate function, and identify opportunities, build prototypes, everything to do with new ideas. I review apparel industry analysis and market evaluations. H-D has incredible brand strength and depth of meaning unlike other apparel brands and deserves an approach that leverages quality and innovation. The design/production group in Milwaukee executes final product. On the functional side I can leverage my riding experience, my lifetime of riding, as we develop new designs and materials in riding gear that emphasize comfort in all elements, style and protection. Climate and conditions change when riding distance, so I value tech fabrics and innovation. I appreciate having great gear you can count on to be diverse, like our FXRG Collection.
What are your sources for inspiration?
We monitor trends specific to the apparel industry, casual and functional trends, current and future. I take a deeper dive into functional apparel and invent with new technologies, specifically at a start point of finding the right partners, creating new innovation that will improve protection and comfort. I also observe the custom nature of Harley-Davidson culture and our riders. I go to many events, from national US events to local events and events in Asia and Europe, and I come away from those events with clear inspiration. H-D inspires individuality and that speaks strongly throughout the world. There’s also an on-going dialogue with the motorcycle styling department on design language and color direction.