From “baggy on baggy” to “boy-girl” fashion. How the super stylist is helping the NorCal brand stay on trend
Words by ELIZABETH VARNELL
Karla Welch knows enough about shape shifting to stay one step ahead of fashion. The stylist has made a name for herself piecing together game-changing red carpet looks for Sarah Paulson and Elizabeth Moss, not to mention that extra-long T-shirt on Justin Bieber. Now she’s applying her fearless, sartorial prowess to the classic American wardrobe with her second Dockers x Karla collaboration. Her minimalist, utilitarian second season drop is comprised of six gender-neutral designs with exaggerated volumes that are tailor-made for the great outdoors this summer.
The bold new Dockers additions, also at her own site xkarla, include a cotton brushed twill upsized anorak with an elastic hem and a subtly crinkled button-up shirt in Japanese nylon — pieces that nod to Welch’s British Columbia upbringing and her practical approach to fashion. Oversized cotton twill pleated-and-cuffed shorts, wide-legged pleated trousers, a slim-waisted midi skirt and a contrasting yak-blend shrunken cardigan — based on one of Welch’s childhood favorites — round out the limited-edition offering.
“Karla has a vision of both inclusivity and modernity,” says Janine Chilton-Faust, Global VP of Men’s Design, Levi Strauss & Co., adding that at Welch’s suggestion, the company is making a donation to The Trevor Project a suicide prevention nonprofit for LGBTQ+ youth. Indeed, the San Francisco-based denim brand that includes the Dockers label has a history of supporting LGBTQ+ rights and was the first Fortune 500 company to provide health benefits to domestic partners. Now Levi’s is back on the front lines joining the #StopHateForProfit campaign taking a stand against hate speech by boycotting Facebook and Instagram and also committing to supporting garment workers through #PayUp, created to mitigate the crisis of lost jobs and wages due to pandemic-related canceled orders.
“Karla has a vision of both inclusivity and modernity”
Welch’s initial collaboration with Dockers, also benefiting The Trevor Project, included an immediately sold-out trench and bucket hat, all in Boy Scout-adjacent hues. For Season 2, she builds on Dockers’ tried-and-true harvest gold tone, but this time she’s also employing an eye-catching counterpoint: sea pink. Chilton-Faust credits the fabrics Welch selects with giving shape to her oversized silhouettes. “The high density of the 100-percent cotton twill, an authentic fabrication, makes for excellent structure in the shorts, skirt and pants, and helps to create the shapes that are so unique to this collection,” she says.
To devise new American classics with modern shapes, Welch took inspiration from attire worn by artist Georgia O’Keeffe and photographer Ansel Adams in the wilds and vistas that appear so prominently in their art. Welch’s modern versions of practical-chic shirts, jackets and skirts designed for durability and movement further her ongoing mission to create a closet of elevated basics. Here, we talk to Welch about styling oversized looks, monochromatic dressing, and how to put together the sort of uniform appropriate for these unpredictable times.
As you began this collaboration, did you plan to create a more gender-neutral collection or did it happen organically?
To be honest, I didn’t really see it as gender neutral. I don’t think we even need to be that specific on gender when it comes to design.
You reworked Hanes T-shirts years ago at Justin Bieber’s request — do you approach each garment by thinking first about how to dismantle it?
It’s fairly self-centered. I think about what I want and then I make it. And I hope there are people out there who feel the same.
The collection’s anorak is crafted in cotton brushed twill with Japanese nylon lining assuring that, despite its oversized scale, the piece has a specific shape.
That’s the perks of working with Dockers — they have khaki down pat! I wanted the windbreaker to have weight and to feel like you’re throwing on a great sweatshirt.
“Simple is hard, but that’s what makes it perfect”
How do you balance the oversized pieces in your daily look?
You just wear them! However it feels good to you. I love baggy on baggy! Everything we made is really about a feeling — not only how it is on your body, but I love an emotional sort of connection, how a pair of pants makes you feel. That’s the drive with all of these items.
Every look in this collection has pockets — they’re clean and minimalist — but always there.
Where else are you putting your phone?
The shorts and trousers have pleats. What do you love about them?
I think it just makes them cool.
You’ve styled a sea pink-hued shirt and trousers together in monochrome, what led you to the striking shade and how do you personally wear it?
I’m a very boy girl. I love bringing this bright explosion of color to items that are so utilitarian. I’m definitely wearing them [together and paired] with a red lip!
There’s always been a practicality to Dockers. Using the classic harvest gold shade throughout the collection, you’ve paid homage to the concept of a well-crafted uniform including a sleek skirt with impeccably clean lines.
I was looking at images of Georgia O’Keeffe and how her style was so practical yet so stylish. And how her clothes feel quite plain but crafted. The skirt when you look at it, is plain. But when you put it on, then it becomes exactly what you want to wear. Simple is hard, but that’s what makes it perfect.
What led you to shoot the looks amid idyllic groves of redwoods, places where Ansel Adams and Georgia O’Keeffe roamed in similarly utilitarian clothes?
Well, I’m a nature kid. This is who I’ve been forever.
July 14, 2020
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