The debut optical collection from Karen Walker Eyewear may seem like a radical and remarkable move for the designer who has come to dominate the outré end of the sunglass spectrum.
Opticals, after all, are a different ballgame. Design execution becomes elevated to an exacting degree as each pair of frames needs to be industry-fit and calibrated in terms of strength, fit, weight and comfort to meet stringent wearer and optician requirements.
To achieve this required level of technical detailing and yet maintain that elusive edge of subversive chic that is the Karen Walker Eyewear trademark is the tightrope that had to be walked in this premier collection which comes out swinging with 50 new options across 16 frame styles.
Karen Walker Optical is about reinventing cultural snapshots with an artful ease that belies the depth of historical reference whilst still seeing silhouettes hone in on classic looks from the ‘50s, ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. Subtle but important revisionism is taking place in each pair with the tilt of a line, the shift of an angle. “I’ve always said that our look is about getting ‘just the right amount of wrong’,” Karen says. “In this col- lection the frames are so superfine that the delicate act of getting things perfectly off-kilter became even more exacting. You have to know precisely how far to push things. In some cases we got there by ever-so-faintly blowing up a classic shape and then toying in some way with the proportions, or pushing the silhouette into an awkward, unpredictable direction. It was all about tiny but vital distortions.”
Delicacy is a key theme in a range that is wrought ultrafine to a level never seen before in any Karen Walker Eyewear collection. All 50 frames – metal and acetate alike – are lightweight and precise. The iconic power of the arrow insignia is super-finessed to match and appears in a multitude of never-before renditions on hinges, as a temple tip on metal arms, and even in minute detailing as a monogram on custom nose pad hardware.
The refinement of the frames means that tactile details like faceting on the metal and enamel rims come in to play to give Optical a hand-tooled and artisanal aesthetic. Each pair of frames will, in fact, have passed through 200 pairs of hands in the course of their production process. The stainless steel-core frames are precision-engineered to be exceptionally lightweight while a new cellulose acetate is derived from natural cotton and wood fibres, and is flexible, hypoallergenic and fully adjustable. In all cases the mono rimlock on the frames makes them ideal for optical lens fitting.
Bouncing off the lightness of the frames’ technology, the colours chosen are delicate too. The faintest infusions of lilac, pink and nude push a hint of colour into clear acetate frames. The solid colour acetates are classic Karen Walker gloss black, navy and blush along with the original Karen Walker Crazy Tort and a new tort that’s a tonal integration of black, brown and treacle.
The debut optical collection from Karen Walker Eyewear may seem like a radical and remarkable move for the designer who has come to dominate the outré end of the sunglass spectrum. Opticals, after all, are a different ballgame. Design execution becomes elevated to an exacting degree as each pair of frames needs to be industry-fit […]