Sunday, September 7, 2008

Karen Walker's fashion belief system


Australian model Skye Stracke works a faded leopard print shift dress in Karen Walker's The Believers SS09 collection in New York yesterday.


Androgyny is a key component of Karen Walker’s brand DNA – the first garments she made for market back in 1988 were not dresses, but two shirts. And although inspired by cults and voodoo, such was the androgyny factor of this collection, it often seemed a little more Annie Hall, than Amish.

Oversized boyfriend jackets were teamed with baggy bermudas, long shirts with clerical collars were layered over slouchy, cropped chinos and XL, fine-gauge T-shirts bearing ram’s head graphics hung over loose-fit pencil skirts.

The cultish puritannical streak kicked in via high-necked, folkloric smock tops layered over wide-legged pants, with the pretty white lace shift dresses seemingly a nod to the symbolically 'pure' white peasant dresses that are seen in Creole voodoo - ditto the grey/black madras check theme, which was used in bermudas and even a trouser suit with shrunken blazer.

I read that Walker hoped at one stage to make the entire collection blue – another significant voodoo hue.

She certainly used a lot of it in, among a myriad of other blue-on-blue looks, one sweet microfloral blouse worn over electric blue slouch pants. And not forgetting a series of striking cobalt blue silk cocktail dresses. Walker might pander to androgyny - but she makes a wicked party frock.

Click here to see the full collection on
Click here to see Sonny Vandevelde's backstage shots.


Paul said...

Separates in white, beige, blue and some leopard . . . not exactly a ground-breaking collection. Commercial, yes, but hardly fulfilling the promise she once showed. I'm just saying, is all.

Anonymous said...

I dont think she was ever not commercial but she had quirks.
I like it,nothing new but heck its fun!

M.H. said...

I dont think she has to prove to anyone how good or average or whatever people will judge on her abilties. I've always thought she made more in roads and endeavours to not compromise and put alot of her personal inspirations than just some thing commerical. A collection is commercial but than the more appropriate term should be wearable. And anyway, it's definitely a break away from black on black, oh please (that's why I look forward to New York Fashion Week)

Rebecca said...

I think, as always, Karen has made her mark in fashion with her own aesthetic. She has indeed done something different, but a great designer always challenges people's expectations. Like the previous collections before her, you can tell she has been inspired when she created this.
I'm a Karen fan through and through :)

nadene said...

Karen has natural talent for clever subversion in her collections. I like clothes that express an individual's creative response to an idea or subject. A white blouse becomes a statement on puritanical religiosity, a animal motifs and leopard print become a statement on the wildness that lies beneath a civilized exterior. Nothing is just what it seems and it's always in a warmhearted, whimsical context. Love it!

anna said...

I have to say I'm with Paul here. I am really disappointed in Walker's development (or lack of it), over the years.

I bought her clothes in the mid to late 90s. But I wouldn't touch anything of hers now. Her very first jewelry range had some cool pieces, but they are all still on her jewelry website as current! And not long after she did those, she pushed out the cheaper line (under the same name). Some were kind of clever, like the cigarette butt charm, and the first hobo girl. But she has done them too much, for too long. God, they came out in 2004 at the absolute latest. Now, there are just endless versions, in cheaper and cheaper materials.

She just looks like she ran out of ideas, or drive, or the big ambitions and intelligence of her earlier designs. Too much repetition, too little innovation. I am sorry. I hate to say this because I was a BIG fan.

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