How would you describe yourself in three words? “I’m an optimist,” says Karen Walker, with the energy of one who is conquering fashion, fragrance and eyewear on the global stage. Walker has just launched her exclusive Liberty collaboration and is riding a wave of eyewear successes thanks, in part, to a campaign featuring Toast the dog (toothless-yet-fabulous companion of @TheFatJewish.
Hailing from Auckland, New Zealand, Walker has a long and personal history with Liberty fabric. As a result, the collaborative process “was very special, I loved being one of the few brands who gets to reinterpret [Liberty print].”
Known for her bold trademark, Walker’s aim as a designer is always to “push against what else is out there, to react to everything. Toast was about doing our own version of the cult of celebrity, seeing if we could do it totally differently.”
Blue Liberty Harvest sunglasses
Walker’s commitment to individuality in an age of mass-produced product is ever apparent in her philosophy as a designer: “people are genuinely interested in craftsmanship, I think there’s a real listening for it amongst the public. You might have some beautiful artisanal piece of furniture but then an Ikea rug, that’s how people live – by mixing it up.”
“This Liberty collaboration is a seminal moment for me; the first item of clothing I ever made and sold was a men’s Liberty print shirt.”
Always with this ethos in mind - and always wary of putting a celebrity name to her brand - previous campaigns have seen Karen Walker sunglasses gracing the faces of everyone from models posing as 21st century dictators, Kenyan craftspeople and even party balloons. This extra dimension of thought is perhaps what gives her collections such irresistible personality: “One of my favourite eyewear icons is the character that Gena Rowlands plays in the John Cassavetes film Opening Night – there’s lots of nerves and battling alcoholism but while life is disintegrating around her she’s still got great shades.”
Achieving this edge is down to the tension between two opposites for Walker: “I always liked the throwing together of opposites and extremes; in my brand there’s always been a masculine/feminine battle going on, a play between being luxe and street, and playing with proportions. I always think of negative and positive, that’s when you get the electricity.”