From childhood, Kareen Durbin has been drawn to the sea and ocean as an orienting point in her life. She grew up in Fitzroy, a coastal suburb in the west-coast city of New Plymouth that allowed Kareen and her two younger siblings to enjoy sea-swims whenever possible. After high school, Kareen moved to Auckland to study Art and Design, majoring in Fashion, at AUT after recognising its unique location at the intersection of business and creativity. She also participated in the Maxim Internship in 2010/2011. Throughout her years of study, work, and creative pursuits, Kareen discovered a deep love and appreciation for cross-cultural collaboration and design, particularly with refugees.
In keeping with this mission, Kareen and her husband Will have set up a social enterprise called Companion, which collaborates with migrants and former refugees to make furniture and textile companies with the aim of contributing to successful resettlement. Kareen also worked for Venn as Events Coordinator during maternity cover, before moving to New Plymouth with their daughter Nina.