Rihanna's Favorite Designer Karen Walker Launches New Sunglass Line

Karen Walker P 2012

The New Zealand-based eyewear, clothing and jewelry designer talks to THR during an L.A. press showing for her new "Little Aliens" collection.

Karen Walker's eyeglasses are works of art - they're instantly identifiable as hers and her colorful frames are often large, with some rectangles, some cat eyes, some round. But her tortoise is big tortoise. Her pink frames are candy pink. Her black cat eyes are lined in fluorescent yellow. They have names like Deep Freeze, Cabbie, Wizard, Betsy and The Butler. Her whimsy and imagination really show in her glasses.

No wonder Rihanna is her biggest fan and has been photographed in Karen Walker eyewear constantly in the last month. W.E. costume designer and Madonna stylist Arianne Phillips walked the Oscar red carpet this past February (when she was nominated) in a pair of vanilla-colored plastic-framed retro-futuristic style Karen Walker frames. But Walker also makes very whimsical clothes, often in bright prints, and they've been worn by the likes of Bjork, Sienna Miller, MIA, Claire Danes, Liv Tyler and Jennifer Lopez.

Walker dropped into town with her Creative Director and husband Mikhail Gherman, who's also her business partner, to meet press and stylists. The Hollywood Reporter got a chance to talk to the Kiwi designer at the Chateau Marmont, where she showed her new 2012 Little Aliens collection on foam heads that were sprayed in varied color glitter and had antennae on their heads - like - well, little aliens. She herself looked smart in a charming Karen Walker print short dress.

The Hollywood Reporter: How did you feel when Arianne Phillips wore your glasses on the Oscar red carpet? Did you know that was going to happen?

Karen Walker: I had no idea she was going to wear them! My L.A. representative Linlee Allen sent me the photo that Arianne tweeted on the way to the Oscars. I've never met Arianne, but of course I know about her.

THR: People in the U.S. really know your eyewear due to the celebrity sightings and the stores it's in. But I'm not sure how familiar they are with your clothes or your jewelry, which we looked up on your website. It's really charming.

KW: We've been doing the fine jewelry for about eight years. We actually have a line of homewear that will hit stores this August - four beach towels, and linens in prints and colors. I also have another line of clothes called Hi There that's in Anthropologie stores. We've been making womenswear for twenty years, and eyewear for seven years. For some reason, the eyewear's really connected in this market, more than the clothing. I guess eyewear is more universal. And everybody in L.A. needs eyewear. 

THR: This Little Aliens collection of eyewear (can be seen on www.Karenwalker.com) is really striking and singular.

KW: That was the intention. We wanted every single piece to be strong, modern and energetic. Sure, we want girls on the beach wearing them, but we want strong women on the street wearing them. They're big in L.A., and in Japan, Australia, Korea, the U.K., Italy - the eyewear is in 25 countries. The clothing is in about 180 stores worldwide. I'd describe the clothes as elegant with a whimsical edge. That's why I wanted to do this showing at the Chateau Marmont  - same vibe. This place is such a piece of Hollywood history.

THR: How is Rihanna has been wearing so many styles of your glasses all over the place?

KW: I have no idea! I guess she requests then. I get emailed the photos. She was touring London and wore a cream colored wig to match my eyewear. It certainly can't hurt that she wears them! Yes, retailers do request more of the styles she wears. We went to Barneys website the day after Rihanna wore a pair of glasses, and Barneys was showing them.

THR: So why are you showing your clothes at New York fashion week these days?

KW: It's my eighth season showing in New York. I used to show in London, but then my agent moved to New York and my stylist moved to New York.