Sunday, February 15, 2009

Karen Walker's pearl protocol

karen walker FW0910/wwd

Well one of two solitary antipodians who trekked all the way from downunder to this cash-forsaken NYFW has shown overnight: New Zealand’s Karen Walker. Entitled 'She’s Cracked', it was a pretty-enough, dress-heavy, ‘80s-nosed collection whose strongest points included a series of intriguing blazers with sharply-puffed sleeves, both zipper-articulated in tweed and compass-cut in tuxedo fabric. There were slouchy peg trousers, in highshine wovens and also grey knit marle. Sweet long-sleeved Ts with draped shoulders. And a series of balloon- and puff-sleeved knit dresses with interesting graphics. Walker’s prints are the leitmotivs of her collections. On this occasion, the central theme was a cracked ice graphic which spilled down the front of knit Ts and dresses. In addition to reprising her trademark tiered Opera House sleeve in some of the cocktail dresses, Walker also delivered a shorter version of a dress from her own archives, which was originally presented for the Resort 2000 season: the famous string of pearls dress.

Click here
to see the complete Karen Walker FW0910 collection on

It’s interesting that Walker has redone this print at this moment, because frockwriter recently toyed with the idea of a blog post on the Walker link to the first piece of merchandise that is being offered by the Michelle Obama style fan blog Mrs O.

That's the blog which, as it subsequently emerged several months after launch, is in fact operated by a new business division of the multinational advertising agency Bartle Bogle Hegarty.

The site's writers say the shirt was inspired by an outfit worn by Michelle Obama to the presidential debate in late 2008: a blue Maria Pinto dress, teamed with three Erickson Beamon floral brooches pinned to a single-strand pearl necklace.

mrs o

Although the trompe l’oeil necklace print trend has been around for at least eight years, trompe l’oeil is by no means a new fashion invention.

Trompe l'oeil became a signature of the legendary 30s couturière Elsa Schiaparelli.

Deployed in the years since by a variety of designers and clothing manufacturers, Walker certainly put her own imprimatur on the look at the beginning of this decade via the innovative trompe l’oeil triple-strand pearl necklace print which appeared on several garments in her Resort 2000 ‘Etiquette’ collection, shown at Australian Fashion Week in Sydney.

In spite of the fact that the collection garnered some international coverage, including a multi-page feature in The Financial Times of London, Walker was at the time still very much under the radar as a young emerging designer from New Zealand.

Call it a coincidence - or just the evolution of a trend - however no less than three major international fashion brands picked up strikingly similar versions of the print in subsequent seasons.

Matthew Williamson:

matthew williamson SS2001/


Cacharel FW0102/

And Roberto Cavalli:

robert cavalli FW0203/

In June 2002 I spoke with Walker for a story about plagiarism for the (now defunct) Australian business magazine The Bulletin.

According to Walker, who was at the time showing at London Fashion Week (where she initially participated in a group NZ show in 1999, followed by her first solo effort in 2000):

“Information is the key in this business. It's like the new wheel - the most valuable commodity. And it's so readily available.... In this business it's who shouts loudest. Because nobody gives a fuck if somebody from New Zealand did a pearl dress.

“If they see something there [off circuit] they like, they'll feel quite comfortable doing it, whether it's some nasty little Chinese ragtrader or a big chain store in Australia or Cacharel in Paris. Because they don't think anyone's going to ever notice and if they do, what the hell?”


Style On Track said...

I've always loved Karen Walkers designs, but I must say, reading your review of her latest show has made me even more eager to see this new collection :)

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