Karen Walker at New York Fashion Week
Revolutionary women: it's a big idea, tackled by Karen Walker in her latest collection shown during New York Fashion Week today.
"We started by looking at revolutionary women, and went on lots of different voyages; from Angela Davis right back to the suffragettes," Walker explained toViva fashion features editor Zoe Walker backstage before the show.
"What we really liked about the suffragettes as a starting point was that reinvention and questioning of beauty and what that is."
The idea of subverting prettiness has been Walker's oeuvre for a long time - it sums up the brand - and this collection felt especially so - full, feminine skirts made in a durable drill, prim Victorian elements - frill collar, buttoned up shirts - sitting with a largely utilitarian, workwear inspired blue palette. The prints help sum up the idea of strength behind the collection: a graphic fighting angels print, and a striking black and white print that looks like a floral, but is actually made up of spanners, bolts and broken hearts (they almost look like Emojis).
Then there are the slogans: they're Walker's interpretation of the suffragettes' use of bold lettering; their pinafores and canvas bags printed with their protestations.
Walker's are more subversive; statements on modern attitudes: "Faster Better Stronger", "Young Willing and Eager", "Liberal Miserable and Cynical". (These are taken from past Karen Walker collections and feature on leather clutches and sweaters which are bound to be big sellers.)
"I loved that idea of using the body and the bag as a placard," explains Walker.
Revolutionary women with something to say: that's something that naturally leads to discussions of feminism, which has recently been declared as "fashionable" by several fashion writers (which seems slightly ridiculous - feminism isn't a trend - and warrants further discussion at another time. Although surely any discussion about feminism is better than none at all.)
Trends aside, Walker says that she does consider herself a feminist. "Isn't everyone?" she asks.
"We're all lucky that living in 2014 we're not the ones being called upon to fight those fights - so much has been done for us. But there are a lot of places around the world where they still haven't got that and the same rights - in Africa, a lot of these women aren't even considered citizens.
"If I was in 1895, I'd be holding up those placards; I'm just lucky that I don't have to. Today I get to tell my story and make my point of view in different ways."
See all the looks in the gallery below: