Lauded New Zealand designer Karen Walker made her runway debut in 1998, and since then she’s seen her designs worn by celebrities the world over. Her clothes are known for an exquisite use of pattern and plays on proportion that embody a modern sense of confident femininity. Walker’s inspirations vary, but travel makes a big impact “I appreciate the downtime that comes with travel and the vacant hours on long-haul flights for the way they allow the imagination to wander,” she says. In Walker’s own words, here are five ways she finds inspiration, plus how she deals with distraction.
Flowers and Steel – Our latest Resort collection, Mujer, is inspired by female revolutionaries of the Spanish Civil War. We found photos of women in floral dresses with military overlays like guns, jackets, and military boots. It was this idea of these really strong capable women being thrust from one life to another, and having those two aesthetics collide
Starmen in Suburbia – Our Spring 2016 collection was inspired by life in the Soviet Union’s secret training base, Zvezdny Gorodok, colloquially known as Star City. We came across photos from the early ‘80s of astronauts in astronaut gear in very chintzy Russian sitting room settings, with carpets nailed to the walls. It was this incredible dichotomy of the high-tech and this suburban aesthetic. It was a little bit grandma-ish, very lacy, floral, and quite puffy.
Text Messages – Our Fall 2014 collection was a celebration of the Suffragettes their whole point was getting their message out there in any way possible. Women would wear long white gowns, pinafores, aprons, and overdresses —it was Victorian times—and print on them in big black letters, from the shoulders down to the ground. “Votes For Women.” That idea of using everything as a placard was so rich.
Superwrapping – In Japan there is no compromise on the time taken to give respect. It can take many forms, and one of those is by presenting an item in a well-contemplated way. Furoshiki is a cloth that turns into a little bag if it’s folded in a certain way. Often they’ll have indigo-dyed cottons or a disperse-dyed print with a cream polka dot, which is so simple and delightful. I’m a big fan of navy and cream, it’s kind of my go to color palette. You could be at the grocery store buying two oranges, and the same amount of care goes into the wrapping.
Parklight – My favorite pan of London’s Royal Parks is Regent’s Park. Maybe that’s because of the time of day when I last visited. It was dusk, it was warm, and the spring flowers were out. The light was sort of dusty: Soft side light is a real luxury for me because I live in New Zealand, and we have a very strong light—everything is sharp.
When you’re in places where the light is softer, I find that intriguing and quite calming. You’ve got sunlight, but the edge has been taken off somehow. When you design a park it’s such a selfless act, because it’s going to take 100 years before it looks good. It’s such a luxury to have that sense that someone 200 years ago took the time to care about how the light would cut through an Italian garden on a spring evening so that when I walked through that gate, it looked beautiful centuries later.