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Karen Walker Channels Man Ray, Ditches Runway

We’ll miss her at NYFW, but the designer’s latest line of shades is surreal, metallic bliss

Seeing as the name Man Ray almost immediately conjures the surrealist photographer’s iconic 1930 “Tears” image of a longing eye, heavily-coated lashes, and two glass-like droplets running down a model’s cheek, the artist is pretty much the perfect inspiration for a sunglasses range. Enter Karen Walker’s Fall 2016 eyewear lineup, which riffs on Ray’s chilling photos. “I’ve always loved his work, especially his solarized images. They look so simple, but are actually so complex,” said designer, who phoned Fashion Unfiltered from her car in New Zealand after dropping her daughter off at school. “[The images] look almost metallic, so his work has always been on my ‘hard to take a gaze away from’ list of art.”

Toying with the ideas of minimalism, architecture, and negative space, Walker’s latest line of sunnies is cleaner, crisper, and more sever than anything the industry favorite has released in the past. She’s expanded her use of metal here, swapping it in for her usual acetate frames, and worked with Ziess Lenses to up the quality of her wares. “It’s a new interpretation, which is so much a part of our work,” Walker continued. “We’re taking what we’re famous for and reinterpreting it.” One style about which the designer is particularly excited is the aviator. “I’ve always wanted to do it,” she said. “It just never looked right when we experimented with acetate. But somehow, in metal, it came together.”

The campaign, which was lensed by Barnaby Roper and stars UK-based model Hazel Townsend, was shot in the style of Ray, and plays with the idea of positive and negative, utilizing the abovementioned solarization technique.

Available from today at stores including Barneys New York, Saks Fifth Avenue, and karenwalker.com, the Fall collection of shades isn’t the only newsworthy Karen Walker tidbit floating around. After 20 seasons at New York fashion week, the designer has decided to skip the circus for Spring. “There are so many different ways to communicate your ideas now,” Walker said. “Once upon a time, shows were a very important part of your toolkit. And they still have a place, but for us, it doesn’t make sense. It’s mainly consumer eyes on runway shows now, and getting them all hyped up and excited about a product, and then telling them they can’t buy it for six months, it doesn’t make sense.”

Moving forward, Walker will present her collection in a variety of formats, including via fashion films. This season, she’ll be releasing a handful of Spring 2017 images to various fashion websites in order to whet her clients’ appetites (not unlike Michael Kors has been doing), but most will be withheld until closer to the sale date. So, will Walker miss her usual romp down the runway? “There are certain elements that I’ll miss,” she admitted, “but mostly, I’m looking forward to showing the product in other ways. I think it’s just more exciting.”

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