Karen Walker doesn't do much black. As she pointed out after her show today, navy is her fundamental neutral—"the god color," as a member of her team put it. Walker's preference for navy over black says a lot about her as a designer: In her eyes, the world is a more cheerful place than it is for most of her peers. And so at first blush, it seemed an odd fit that Walker's inspiration this season was Taxi Driver, the emblematic film of seventies New York grimness. Finding that out before the show was a bit like hearing that Katy Perry had covered "Love Will Tear Us Apart." Huh? Really?
Not that Walker doesn't have a subversive streak; she does. But her collections always have a lot of pep, and she didn't sacrifice any of it as she took on Scorsese's classic. "We were playing with the idea that Betsy and Iris, in that film, represent these two different kinds of American women," Walker explained. "Betsy is feminine and elegant and aloof; Iris is tough and girlish. We wanted to see how we could push those characters through our own look."
It hardly seemed possible, but Walker's extrapolations this season relied upon an even more emphatic use of print than usual. Blown-up checks and stripes girded a bunch of microdots and graphic florals, including a bang on-trend tropical floral in turquoise. Walker spun the prints into natty, forties-inspired dresses (Betsy) and pegged pants and little shorts (Iris).
There's always a menswear inflection in Walker's collections, and this season was no different: Alongside her signature boyfriend blazers, she also created a terrific, eye-searing print that magnified the texture of tweed, and a supersize houndstooth that was especially good in white and navy. In general, this show had a more formal feeling than is typical for Walker—the real story was those ladylike, forties-style dresses, which fit in nicely with this season's emerging trend of soigné looks. That said, tomboy Walker fans will have no trouble picking out pieces here.