Designer Karen Gallo‘s upbeat presence and confident style has a way of putting you immediately at ease. Born in Colombia and raised in Queens, the worldly, street-wise New Yorker effortlessly pairs hoodies with Altuzarra and is consistently decked out in impressive jewelry.
Inspired by the impeccable eye of her grandmother, Gallo fell in love with design at a young age and knew she was destined to make a career out of her creative passion. Karen’s namesake label of footwear and handbags is the ultimate expression of her drive to create. With her new focus on essentials, we look forward to stocking our closets with her timeless creations.
In addition to her accessories business, Gallo has honed her talent as an interior designer while developing restaurants in the New York area. When she invited us for a sneak peek at her latest eatery in Harlem, Fumo, we jumped at the opportunity to stop by for a drink. Over what turned into one too many cocktails, we discussed her penchant for raw Colombian emeralds, why she “hates handbags,” and her recent move to Los Angeles. -Emerald Carroll for The Stone Set
I’m wearing what is essentially my uniform, the things I wear every day. I love COS tank tops. They’re straight to the point and simple. My hoodie is OVO (October’s Very Own) by Drake and the coat is Altuzarra. He makes the best parkas ever. My pants are Zero by Maria Cornejo, who is my best friend Bibi’s mom. She is amazing! For beauty, I’m loyal. I only wear the Chanel Chance fragrance, NARS Pigalle Semi Matte Lipstick and Essie nail polish in Wicked. I recently cut my hair shorter—I wanted a change.
My shoes are Karen Gallo, I’m wearing my classic high pointy boot. The shoes I design are all about classic staples. I feel that’s what a woman needs: essentials for her closet, and I’m big into giving those staples coolness.
For a while, I’d been feeling a bit off. I don’t know how to explain it, but over the fashion seasons I felt I needed more space to create. My brand Karen Gallo is evolving into select, edited pieces for women; that everyday heel you feel comfortable in, and you feel good about the brand you’re wearing. It will be direct to consumer with select store partnerships. I’m a big accessory woman except for handbags. I hate handbags! I put my lipstick in my pocket. The smaller handbag, the better it is. That’s how a woman should simplify herself. It shouldn’t be that complicated to be beautiful.
The Drink & Location
A weird side of myself is that I’m an interior designer and a shoe designer. It’s very easy for me to translate my accessory design into architecture because I’m building something. You’re building a space, and a feeling. The two go together. I understand architecture as much as I understand footwear. I think it’s the same thing. Footwear is like a space for your feet and environments are a space for yourself, where you go and have fun. I try to take both into perspective when I think about people want.
Here I am at a restaurant of my own design. I have two restaurants downtown, and now I’m way uptown at Fumo at 1600 Amsterdam Avenue in Harlem. It’s a very up and coming area and we wanted to bring something new to this neighborhood. I’m drinking the Amelia, a cocktail with vodka, St. Germaine, blanc vermouth, raspberry, and fresh lemon.
My cuffs and earrings are Bacata Artisans, a Colombia-based jewelry line. It means a lot to me because I’m Colombian. They’re real gold and emeralds and I love that they use raw materials. The mini bracelets are baby bracelets that were given to me when I was young. My rings on my left hand are Balenciaga, Céline, Bing Bang on my left ring finger, and a diamond band on my left index finger. My right thumb is a cheap gold band from a random store, and my pinkie ring is ManiaMania. My cross necklace is my best friend Bibi’s christening necklace. It’s very special to me.
I recently relocated to LA. As a New Yorker raised in Queens, I’m loving it. It’s great to bring all the knowledge New York taught me in a city where so much is happening. It’s giving me space for my creativity. I’m not a designer that follows rules. I’m perceptive—I need to be around new subjects and embrace them. Los Angeles has given me that openness. -Karen Gallo
Photography by Emerald Carroll for The Stone Set