Shining On With Karen Allan
“It’s like apocalypse out there,” says Karen Allan, staring out the window of her shopfront. “I’m half expecting to see zombies trawl past.”It’s been less than a week since Australia started introducing lockdown laws to crack down on the COVID-19 pandemic. There’s hardly a soul to be seen on James St. On any other day the iconic hub of luxury shopping and eating would be a hive of activity. This week, however, it’s eerily quiet.
A small ray of light amid the doom and gloom of boarded up businesses is Empayah, Karen Allan’s pop-up jewellery store. Downstairs from James St’s Sage Hotel, Empayah is set up in a renovated shipping container. It’s a glittering trove filled with treasures that Karen both makes and sources internationally.
The pop-up opened three weeks ago as a part of the Suburban Shopfront Activation pilot program. Brisbane City Council is connecting up-and-coming businesses with property owners plagued by vacant premises. The ultimate aim is to temporarily fill empty spaces whilst simultaneously giving small businesses the boost they need to flourish.
Opening Empayah has been a long time coming for Karen. She made her first pair of earrings 32 years ago — a set of clip-ons unique to the glitz and glamour of the eighties. “I’m a tragic eighties girl,” she tells me, “but I also draw inspiration from the art deco movement of the twenties.” Her references never stagnate in the past, though. They forge forward through the decades to create a vibrant visual feast which is heavily reflective of Karen’s own feel-good aura.
I suppose that’s what keeps Karen and Empayah shining through the all consuming COVID-chaos. Optimism. Granted, she has her lows. A few days after our meeting Karen posted to Instagram; “It’s with heavy heart and much sadness that I’m announcing the closure of my pop-up… not only is it socially responsible to close the doors for my own safety, it is also for the safety of everyone.”
When she heard the lockdown announcements last week she said she “sat on [her] back deck and cried and cried.” But then she got up, poured herself a gin, and carried on. I imagine her approach to this inevitable proceeding will be no different.
At the end of the day she’s counting her blessings. “I’ve gained brand awareness, I’ve introduced myself to a beautiful new pool of customers, and I’ve finally gotten myself out there.”
I could have kept talking with Karen all afternoon — she has that magical ability to make you feel like you’ve known her for years. So I encourage you to indulge in her positivity, follow her on Instagram (@glitterarti_ and @empayahjewellery), support her business and let her shine a ray of light into your life.
Empayah’s final day of trading on James Street is Sunday 29th of March. Visit the online store to view and purchase some of Karen’s amazing designs.
Stay tuned via Instagram for product tours and further updates.