Karen Walker Channels Photographer Man Ray For Her Latest Eyewear Collection

The designer goes full-on metal for fall

Photo by Barnaby Roper

Karen Walker, known for her colorfully fun and quirky designs, has just launched her latest eyewear line—and she’s taking an entirely new direction this time around.

Walker’s fall collection, Metals, is inspired by iconic photographer Man Ray. Ray is best known for perfecting the technique of solarization back in the 1930s, which involves transposing the light and dark of photographic negatives in a way that creates a one-of-a-kind metallic-looking effect. This particular technique plays a major role in the designer’s latest offering—being that this is her first ever fully metal collection—designed with a heavy focus on negative space

Walker has been a longtime fan of Ray’s works. “Man Ray's solarized nudes and portraits have always been amongst my most loved of his works,” she says. “The solarization’s otherworldly effect, full of unnaturally brilliant whites and outlines so dark that they look etched, is compelling and fascinating." 

However, it’s one piece in particular that she drew most of her inspiration from. She says:

It's Ray’s "Solarised Portrait of Lee Miller" from 1929 that I’ve always found myself least willing to draw my gaze away from. I love the contrasts within it, of the real world and the solarized world, the simple composition, her combined aloofness, distance, calm, and great beauty—the almost solid metallic look to her hair which appears more sculpted than coiffured. Lee appears almost electrified—her hair and skin glowing. This photograph is, at first, so simple, but upon diving into it, so full of contrasts on so many levels.

With that in mind, Walker translated the works of Ray into her own designs. “We altered our focus this season with new styles that expose their intrinsic architecture and create a sense of illusion, almost as if the frames float on the face and are created using only metals and metallic colors,” she says. Rather than incorporating just a few metal pieces into a new collection, she took the dive to go all the way, shying away from using any of the colorful shapes and silhouettes from earlier seasons. “I like strong, single-minded ideas,” she says.

The brand tapped London-based photographer and director (who's also fan of Ray), Barnaby Roper, to shoot the Metals campaign, with the idea of a modern exploration of solarization at the helm of the project. 

The line introduces four new styles in three colorways (gold, silver, and a metallic navy), all taking inspiration from Walker's past designs—signature arrows and all—but rethought in a new way. Each pair retails for $365.

While Metals is solely inspired by the works of Ray, Walker finds that much of her other work is inspired by art too. “All our campaigns and the way in which we engage with people are, intrinsically, expressions of our ideas,” she says. “We don’t work in the field of art; we work in the field of fashion. However, fashion and art obviously look to one another. From day one we never used a generic fashion image to project our ideas. We’ve always created images that challenge how fashion is presented.” 

You can shop the full Metals collection now on KarenWalker.com. Click through the gallery below to take a closer look at each new style.