Designers Dish, NYFW Spring 2015 Edition: Karen Walker
Although the New Zealand designer doesn't pay attention to celebs on the red carpet, she does love seeing Lena Dunham in her casually cool designs.
At Karen Walker's spring 2015 presentation at Pier 59 Studios on Monday, the Auckland-based designer brought a touch of nature into the stark white industrial space with her latest collection of garden-themed pieces. From a cornflower vest to a terra-cotta-and-clay patchwork suede tunic to wildflower-printed shirts, Walker says she realized the theme to her spring 2015 range thanks to a friend who showed her a book of images taken by British photographer and gardener Valerie Finnis, who captured Britain's gardening culture from post World War II through the '70s.
Backstage, we caught up with the designer — whose celebrity fans include Beyonce, Zooey Deschanel, Kate Mara and Gwen Stefani — to see if she does any digging in the yard herself and which star she thinks best captures her brand's anti-"It" girl attitude. (Hint: She directs and stars in Girls.)
Where were you when you thought about this garden theme for your latest collection?
I was at a friend's house, and she's an interior designer and has got an amazing garden that she just started a couple of years ago. She showed me this book of Valerie Finnis' photographs and she said, "Check out this book. It's really cool." I looked and I was like, 'Ah, that's a collection in there." So immediately I said, "I'm borrowing that!" and gave it back to her nine months later [Laughs].
So, are you a good gardener yourself?
No, I'm not. I do have a garden, but it's very small, and I have people who take care of it. So really all I do is take care of the herbs. It's so small, though — the guys come in with the lawn mower and they're gone in five minutes.
What herbs do you have?
Well, we're just coming out of winter where I live, so the only things that are alive at the moment are just the really sturdy ones like the mint and rosemary and what not. Come summer, there'll be basil and all the ones I cook with a lot. The rest of the garden is just the lawn.
Seeing that you live in New Zealand, what's your take on fashion in the states?
Fashion is so funny. It's so international and global and homogenized in so many ways, but when you go into the city, there's subtle differences. This year, I've been all over — Seoul, Paris and a lot of cities. You get the sense of globalness of fashion. I think in Auckland, where I live, it's a very casual culture, not a red-carpet culture. It's very much that casual style of dressing — the cut-off shorts, sneakers, sweater and a pair of sunglasses. That's sort of the uniform for young girls these days everywhere.
What are your thoughts on red-carpet fashion these days?
Oh, I don't watch any of the award shows. We did do some long gowns like last season — we did four long gowns, only because I was getting sick of going to black-tie events and seeing people wear cocktails at black-ties. We will continue to do a little bit of that with the line, but we don't necessarily show it.
Are there any particular celebs you'd love to see in one of your designs?
Oh, yeah. Lena Dunham was wearing one of our dresses and clutch — she was Instagramming that and she just looked so great. She's our [type of] girl. We always say we're not a brand for the "It" girl. We're for the anti-"It" girl. And I think she captures that perfectly. She's just about being really smart, having really good ideas, having a point of view, and that's what we celebrate and applaud. The more of that, the better.