Eccentricity has a precarious relationship with the fashion industry, particularly in commercially driven New York. But Karen Walker, now in her third season here, has built a solid business on her singular, cheery-but-subversive brand of sartorial whimsy. To wit, she considered adding classic styles to her popular line of eyewear before deciding to just give 'em nothing but big and bold. The result: multiple reorders at Barneys. The lesson: To thine own self be true.
For Spring, Walker spun a tale that wove through the garden party of a kooky-chic neighbor before winding up on the track at Churchill Downsthe latter being the result of watching the Marx Brothers classic A Day at the Races, as well as of a longtime obsession with jockeys. "They've always been in my book of things I'd like to do a collection about," the designer explained after the show. As is often the case with Walker, it all made charming sense in the execution. There was a real freshness to thirties-style floral tea dresses and seventies-style wide-legged pants topped with floppy hats, knotted scarves, and Rachel Zoe-worthy sunglasses. From the racecourse, Walker took jodhpurs, zippered jackets, and bobbled caps, transforming them into kicky, tomboyish looks that fulfilled both the sporty and gender-bending quotas that seem to be requirements in a Walker affair. The designer also turned the graphic silks of a jockey's uniform into polka-dot shifts and harlequin blouses. Amidst this mélange was a pair of understated black dresses; even eccentrics need a day off now and then.