Biking is an escape from pressures — Karen Davidson goes full throttle with t2

Karen Davidson told us she was a bit of both — powerful and a rebel. You couldn’t have missed how soft-spoken she was or how full-throatedly she laughed. The creative director of Harley-Davidson’s general merchandise line, and the great-granddaughter of Harley-Davidson co-founder William A. Davidson, was in town for the launch of the Harley-Davidson lifestyle store at South City Mall, the first in any metro city in India. She was dressed in the colours of the 115-year-old brand — if the black was on her tee, pants and boots, the orange was on her nails. t2 caught up with the California-based Karen.

  • Published 30.05.18
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Karen Davidson sported a replica jacket that you’ll find at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee. The jacket in pure leather with hand-punched studs weighs around 14kg and is priced above a lakh! Picture: Rashbehari Das

Karen Davidson told us she was a bit of both — powerful and a rebel. You couldn’t have missed how soft-spoken she was or how full-throatedly she laughed. The creative director of Harley-Davidson’s general merchandise line, and the great-granddaughter of Harley-Davidson co-founder William A. Davidson, was in town for the launch of the Harley-Davidson lifestyle store at South City Mall, the first in any metro city in India. She was dressed in the colours of the 115-year-old brand — if the black was on her tee, pants and boots, the orange was on her nails. t2 caught up with the California-based Karen.

Is the Davidson surname a pressure?

My parents taught me a long time ago that we honour our customers and riders. They are the brands, right? I have a lot of pride to interact and represent the brand. It is a brand for the people. It’s all about what a person gets from the brand. It’s this amazing expression of strength and individuality. You can never ever overlook that. 

What did you feel when you first sat on that bike?

The first time I twisted the throttle was a feeling of thrill. Just excitement that you are in control of this vehicle. It was amazing! My dad taught me riding; we went to beautiful parks and we would find trails and ride on the trails and experience nature. It was a lot of fun. We are a very close family because we got to have so many unique experiences together. We were always very active. 

Would you be a different person if you weren’t a biker?

That’s hard for me to comment on because I don’t know anything else. When I am on that bike, I feel a sense of pride. I feel very proud of my motorcycle. I feel very good if somebody else is intrigued or they are looking at me… not for me… but for the sake of, ‘Wow! That looks fun or that bike looks beautiful’!

When do you love riding? 

Early morning… before traffic.  
 
What are you thinking when you are on that bike?

Oh my gosh… there’s nothing better than that feeling... kind of being able to just settle and feel very relaxed. I can have very creative thoughts on the bike. You are riding; you are not bombarded by electronic things; you can disconnect. And when you disconnect, you can think freely. I like that. 

Biking must also be your stress buster?

Oh yeah! The biggest stress buster! An escapism. An escape from pressures. Whatever you are experiencing, it is much bigger than anything. 

What are your biking gear musts?

I wear a full-face helmet and I always wear a leather jacket. I also have some perforated jackets. I want that extra layer. I like leather. I always wear good footgear and gloves. So, I am very much about protection. 

Should we even ask you how many leather jackets you have in your closet?

(Laughs) I don’t even know! There might be favourites and there might be things that I am stocking for the future. 

What’s changed over the years in biking?

More women on the road. More people on the road. More diverse. As we became more global, the one thing I have learnt, no matter where I go, is that motorcycling is the great denominator. We are somehow created equal by the share of experience of the world. I can come here and talk to riders. I can be in the US talking to riders. I can be in Switzerland talking to riders. One thing we are talking about is how much fun (it was), where did I go… what was my trip… what was my last vacation… what was this bike… no matter where you are from, it is very much a shared camaraderie. 

What is your message for all the women out there who want to ride?

It is so important to inspire others because there are other people looking up to them, always. Especially women. There are other women looking at her, always, and they are thinking, ‘Wow, she’s brave! Deep down, I want to be like her!’ That’s truly a woman that can change things and inspire. I think who I am and because of my history, I always have words of wisdom or something to encourage women.

What are your plans for the brand?

The next level of customisation… the next level of either functional engineering on one side or newness… never being satisfied. 

What do you think of the Harley-Davidson store here?

It’s fantastic. It’s got a clean proposition. I like the way the fixtures are holding the items… nicely displayed. I think it brings out the items very nicely. I also like the treatment of the heritage... I think you have to have a bit of history here and there. Textures are important.

What do you think of South City Mall as the address for your store?

I love this mall; I like the partners that I see. We’ve got Tommy Hilfiger coming… Superdry… I think it’s nice. It feels good that this mall is renovated, it’s new… it feels good. We are here because we knew that this was very popular. There was a lot going on… new brands coming… we wanted to be a part of that. This store is for 18-35-year-olds who are savvy about new brands and trends, so it’s important to be in this mall. 

In the Harley-Davidson spirit… 

A film: There’s the classic… Easy Rider… that kind of very early sensibility about freedom and a little bit about rebellion… that one was iconic because it had so many lessons in it. 

A personality: Angelina Jolie. Strong and keeps pushing ahead.   

Saionee Chakraborty

Spread over 1,300sq ft, the Harley-Davidson lifestyle store at South City Mall is a collaboration between New York-based G-III Apparel Group and Harley-Davidson, for Asia-Pacific. Slate, black, textured walls, chains and mesh create a grunge feel. 

 

The launch was marked by a fashion show that showcased the range. 

On the racks are tees, denims, shorts, jackets and accessories like bracelets, caps, belts, sunglasses, bags, wallets, backpacks and rings. Studs are a constant feature. “We were keen and we made sure that we get the Harley-Davidson store. Brands like Harley will add a lot of value to the mall,” said Man Mohan Bagree, vice-president, South City Group.

Pictures: Arnab Mondal and Rashbehari Das

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