As Said By

She’s Cracked

This entry posted on January 27th, 2010

She’s “Cracked.” That was the theme of Karen Walker’s show, which had its begin­nings in the designer’s decade-deep archive, from which she unearthed a favorite print of a broken strand of pearls. “We love the beauty that comes out of catastrophe,” said Walker backstage, “and the brittle nature of things.”

The first look out was anything but broken-down: a quite pulled-together square-shouldered and square-bodied trench over black cigarette pants, punctuated by lipstick-red patent pumps. Soon enough, though, the fissures began to appear — in the crackled leather of a black motor­cycle jacket, the breakaway flaps on jersey tops that hung below boxy jackets, and Walker’s charming graphics (including the resur­rected pearls and a colorful new shattered-china-plate print).

She tempered her gone-to-pieces motif with strong and simple silhou­ettes and, right on trend, paid close attention to the shoulder with a princess sleeve on steroids that appeared on cute sweat­shirt dresses and built up in petal-like layers on smart little shifts. It was a strong collection with loads of sellable yet quirky separates. And, frankly, is there a better time for fashion that celeb­rates the beauty that can blossom after things fall apart?

Karen Walker’s collection contained more dresses than usual, though it was her separates and the eclectic mix of textures — a black and white speckled blazer paired with a jersey T and heathered sweat­shirt trousers, for example — that held the spotlight.

There was a sense of coming full circle at Karen Walker’s Fall collection showing Saturday afternoon.

It’s not that the New Zealand-based designer has gone to the creativity well to find it dry, it’s simply that the Broken Pearls motif on the sweat­shirt dress that walked the runway had die-hard Walker fans smiling with delight. The print first debuted in 2000 — back when Walker was a little known designer still trying to carve her niche in the fashion world.

It was a reminder of how far she has come, and how great she has always been at dressing women who appre­ciate beauti­fully crafted garments with a subtle, fashion-forward edge. “People always asked about that print,” said Walker backstage post show. “It just felt right to bring it back now.”

Though it dates back almost 10 years, the print fit beauti­fully alongside the tailored, polished collection shown today. A cropped cotton trench in icy gray topped cigarette-thin trousers in midnight blue. A light­weight, silk wool overcoat in black had just the right amount of volume.

And while the Broken Pearls kept buyers grinning, it was the new Cracked China print that was featured more promin­ently in the form of elegant silk dresses and blouses.

Timeless clothes for a fashion era that is all about investment dressing — and what’s better than a little something that will still be hip in a decade?

The Karen Walker girl has grown up a little for A/W 09 and with it comes precise tailoring that was either on the right side of slouchy or boxy and sharp shouldered. Backstage photo­graphy by Mark Reay.

It was about building the shoulders up and keeping the rest of it very clean. I just wanted a really clean, sharp silhouette — but you still need to have something going on, so we felt it was inter­esting to work with this area.” So said Karen Walker backstage after the Saturday afternoon debut of her autumn/winter 2009-10 collection, which was dubbed She’s Cracked.

Walker clearly hasn’t cracked, judging by this stellar outing, though she certainly kept things inter­esting, both in the afore­men­tioned shoulders (a trench coat squared off into points, several dresses had delicate puff shoulders, while a silk dress featured gently rounded upper arms), and also in the mix of textures and the cuts, which acted as a backdrop to some whimsical prints.

There was a “shattered china” print that did, indeed, resemble broken crockery, sometimes abstractly — as on a gorgeous burgundy silk dress — and other times, as on a series of trompe l’oeil sweat­shirt dresses (which also featured faux pearls and faux shattered glass), a bit too literally. They were cute, but a tad kitsch.

More successful – and sophist­icated – by far were Walker’s stream­lined heather grey or jewel toned sheath dresses, two sexy-chic leath­erette jackets, and speckle wool separates, which hit that perfect boy-meets-girl sweet spot, especially when paired with sexy red patent pumps and high-heeled, cap toe oxfords.

Our Fave Kiwi Karen Walker Gets Serious For Fall/Winter ’09.

We always expect whimsy and charm when we go to a Karen Walker show. And yes, there was some of both on display at her Altman Building unveiling today. But this collection was more composed, serious, and uncom­prom­ising than previous seasons. As usual, Walker’s craft was apparent. This time, however, she shifted toward classic Coco Chanel forms, heather gray shades, neutrals, sharp shoulders, and far less humor. The jaquard silk jackets were lovely, as were the “shattered china” silk print dresses (a wild gesture that hinted at her ongoing use of bold, floral prints). But there was a strong business aspect to this outing. Black bowed dresses were darkly gorgeous while charcoal gray trench coats were sharp, respectable, and defin­itely wearable. There was also a clear edginess under­lying the show — the broken pearl necklace motif shirts being the crowning example. It was a welcome expansion of Walker’s emotional range — not that she didn’t already have our hearts.