Karen Walker Makes A Compelling Case For The Fashionable Umbrella

Photo: Courtesy of Blunt.
Karen Walker's cheerful prints can pretty much brighten any day. She's got sunny forecasts covered with her cult-favorite eyewear — and now, she has the perfect gear to make a rainstorm a lot less dreary, too. The designer just launched her latest collaboration with Blunt (makers of ultra-reliable, legitimately wind-resistant umbrellas). The timing couldn't be better for those of us that have contended with the early arrival of spring showers this week. Blunt approached Walker about teaming up after learning she was a fan of the brand, which has been making indestructible umbrellas since 2006. "I like products that are designed as products, not just as 'fashion items,'" Walker tells Refinery29. "Every little detail is taken care of [at Blunt]. Nothing is disposable or transient about it." For this collaboration, Walker took the Blunt Lite 3 and XS Metro models and dressed them up with the Cosmos blue-and-orange star print from her spring '16 collection, which was "really the standout" motif, according to the designer. "Karen's eccentric style really makes quite a statement with our umbrellas," says Blunt founder Scott Kington. In terms of past design pair-ups, Walker has worked with Benah on handbags, Sephora on makeup brushes, and Happy Socks on socks. "[They're] really good, beautiful products that you need every day," Walker says of her past brand extensions with outside help. She's opted to pair up with "people who are experts that raise the bar in [their] fields."
Previously, Blunt partnered with Bluetooth tracking app Tile on an "unloseable" umbrella and with L.A. artist Michael C. Hsiung on a special-edition print. Despite these past pair-ups, Walker has never created an umbrella and fashion is a completely new category for Blunt. "We’ve done tech and art partnerships, but this our first foray into fashion," Kington says. He also notes that Blunt had never collaborated with another New Zealand brand before. (Walker, Kington, and his Blunt co-founder, Greig Brebner, all hail from Auckland.) When Walker partners with someone, it's not collaboration for the sake of collaborating. "A number of boxes have to be checked," she says. The designer has to actually dig the brand, of course, but there also has to be a serious innovation quotient. "I have to feel that coming together, we create something bigger than the sum of two halves," Walker says. Blunt proved to be an attractive "blank canvas" for the designer to splash a vibrant print on because the company makes "a good, solid black umbrella in two different sizes that will never let you down, will never turn inside out, will never fall to bits," she says.
Blunt is hoping that the fashion crowd might finally see umbrellas as more than purely functional items, while Walker sees a void for aesthetically pleasing everyday items: "There’s no reason why practical essentials can’t be as beautifully designed as things that exist for their beauty." But high-impact rain gear presents a unique styling conundrum for those of us accustomed to dragging around battered, standard-issue, black drugstore umbrellas that will hopefully stay intact through a day's downpour. Walker advocates going all-in with a coordinated look on dreary days. "I’m really looking forward to using my umbrella while wearing a matching shirt or dress," she says. "I do love prints on prints on prints!"