By Marissa Baecker
Creative director of general merchandise sounds like a high profile job but if your name is Karen Davidson, it is your life. Davidson is the great granddaughter of Harley-Davidson co-founder, William A. Davidson and the daughter of William G. Davidson – Willie G.- a design legend of the Harley brand.
Aside from the name, Davidson’s life was destined to be in the two-wheeled world as her father first introduced her to riding at the age of nine and not on a dirt bike but on a small Harley on the family acreage. As soon as she was old enough to drive, Karen had a bike.
“A lot of the time I was the solo out there riding a bike. It is amazing now how far it has all come. We are now at the point where 23% of the riders in the U.S. are women,” said Davidson in a phone interview.
As the fashion designer for the Harley brand, Davidson has raised the bar for motorcycle clothing. In earlier interviews posted online, Davidson was asked how she came to join the Harley-Davidson company and was quoted as saying, “The feel of Harley-Davidson is more than just a T-shirt, at least it could be.”
With the ideas of possibility in her sights, Davidson began designing clothes for function, listening to the riders’ comments, and mixing the parallel worlds of freedom and thrill of the road, to giving back to the community by contributing any way possible to charitable causes. She turned ‘could be’ into a worldwide recognizable brand.
In January of this year, Davidson launched the Pink Label brands to assist in breast cancer research; a line of clothing for riding, including casual wear and accessories.
“The custom leather jacket – with a custom pink design – sold out in a day. That was about 2000 jackets,” said Davidson.
Proceeds of sales of the collection go to two breast cancer research foundations – in Canada rethinkbreastcancer.com and in the U.S. networkofstrength.org. But it doesn’t end with the clothing line collection. During the month of May Harley-Davidson celebrated women riders by hosting a women’s ride, seminars, various Garage Parties and their annual Precious Metal event in Toronto donating even more money to these charities.
“There is such a community of strength between of women that are on the road and women that are going through treatment and needing help. There is an incredible support network,” continued Davidson.
So what if you don’t ride a Harley but still like the quality of clothing?
“The FXRG (Extreme Functional Riding Gear) line is more subtly branded,” said Davidson. “That line could be expanded. The whole idea is to be a functional all weather, vented, breathable, comfort line of clothing that didn’t scream Harley-Davidson and would satisfy long distance riding. However, on the flip side, we have done low-branded merchandise and sportswear and comparatively it doesn’t do as well as the highly graphic and branded lines.”
While Harley-Davidson is a cruiser motorcycle company, it still provides support to all types of racing including flat track racing. The Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson flat track team has experienced success over the years and championship titles. It would seem only fitting that HD clothing mix with dirt biking at some point in the future.
“I loved those days of messing around on the track and having a great time,” recalled Davidson. “I love the idea. You have now got me thinking about dirt bike riding.”
Dirt riders keep your eyes open, maybe there are some surprises coming from Harley-Davidson in the future.