Written by Alexandra Pullen. Photos courtesy of Karolyn Pho.
Karolyn Pho has proven that she can hold her own as a designer at New York Fashion Week. I could definitely see her LA roots shine through the overall mood of the collection. I would describe it as laid-back chic.
Her collection is inspired by everyday life — a collection of her observations about the people and world around her. It reminds me of a journal of the people she encounters as if the main focus was on the individual and overall energy of the look, rather than solely the articles of clothing.
She had a few minutes before her runway presentation (and by that I mean 10 minutes after the show was supposed to start), so Fashiontographer caught up with it-girl designer Karolyn Pho.
How does your background in styling assist in your design endeavors? Was designing always your ultimate goal?
I don’t know, when I was styling, I always had design in the back of my mind because I was interning for a designer. It just seemed like a far-fetched dream. Styling definitely plays into my designs as a way of story-telling and character development. I think that with styling, people are so heavy on portraying a certain feel, and a concept, and a person. Trying to understand what this is — and what environment they’re in. I think designing a collection is similar to that; you want to take somebody on a journey. You want to say, “This is a start, this is a middle, this is a finish.” An evolution of one person.
Who is the “character,” so to speak, who you envisioned while creating your designs?
It always changes. I can’t say that it’s one specific person. I think it’s just an energy. I’m surrounded by so many cool, creative, powerful women. I can’t help but take a little bit here, take a little bit there. It’s the way that they carry themselves, the things that they do, the things that they’re drawn to. Again, it’s how they present themselves. That, really for me, is an amalgamation of who this girl is. It’s simply just a feeling, a mental note, and just piecing it together.
What is the idea behind the Venn Diagram motif of your brand?
It’s really just kind of how my mind works. I have one set of ideas that’s totally this way, and one set of ideas that’s totally that way. I just like to take those two things and try to make sense of it. I think whatever falls in the middle then has a sense of fluidity and connection. That’s where the backbone is.
How do you keep the collection fresh and avoid monotony while still maintaining minimalist appeal?
Obviously the silhouette is going to be minimalist. It’s about your choice of fabrication, it’s about the weight, and it’s about execution. You know, the colors, and things like that. Piecing together colors that you wouldn’t normally expect — abstracting them into a different way. That’s what I do with all of my collections. I like to use these familiar silhouettes and repurposed fabrics in a way that you wouldn’t expect. And then all of a sudden it’s new, and it’s fresh. You think, “Oh, I haven’t seen that. Cool.”
I think that her background in styling has given her a unique perspective as a designer. She is more interested in portraying a certain persona than the actual clothing. I think that is one of the reasons why she chooses a basic silhouette for each collection. That way, she can add unique touches to each piece to individualize them. She did that by adding pops of gold, burgundy, and cobalt to the natural color palette. The collection had a fluidity and cohesiveness, yet all of the pieces could stand alone. I love that even the basics have a special touch or inventive layering that made them interesting — like the long-sleeved blue cotton shirt that had a singular horizontal stripe of gold across the front. The theme of gold was incorporated seamlessly throughout the collection without being glaringly overt.
A unique color combination that she used was burgundy and black, which worked really well with the simple pieces. I loved the silk burgundy tee worn under the black camisole pleated dress. I especially appreciated the silhouette of this dress because the cinch at the waist is very flattering. A lot of the pieces would look good on various body types, which is not a common characteristic of collections at NYFW that I have seen.
I think you can afford to have fun with the colors if you are working with a simple silhouette and still maintain an overall minimalist look. Other basic silhouettes included menswear inspired dresses, slouchy pants, and basic tees with a twist. All of the models wore the same style strappy sandal with either bare feet, or with socks worn under. The same simple style shoe made sense, but I found the socks to be distracting. My only other complaint is the use of rabbit fur.
Karolyn is such a cool, down to earth, LA girl. She seems like the kind of person that you automatically could connect with because she’s so open-minded and relaxed. She has such a positive disposition and laid-back vibe.
Check out www.karolynpho.com to view a video of her full Fall/Winter Collection 2014. More photos are also available below.
Alexandra Pullen was born in Nashville, Tennessee, and was raised in Chicago, Illinois, where she began her initial ballet training at a local community center. Pullen studied at Dance Center Evanston, Evanston School of Ballet, and Chicago Ballet Arts, and also at the Ruth Page School of Dance, where she joined their company, the Civic Ballet of Chicago. She trained on scholarship at the Joffrey Academy of Ballet in Chicago under Anna Reznik and Alexei Kremnev. She toured with the Joffrey Trainees to perform as Clara in The Nutcracker Suite. She studied on scholarship at summer programs of the San Francisco Ballet School, School of American Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, and American Ballet Theatre. In 2012, Pullen competed in the Youth America Grand Prix Chicago Semi-Finals and received a gold medal in the classical category and a silver medal in the contemporary category. She was a Finalist in New York City. In September 2012, Pullen was awarded the Shoot for Change Scholarship to attend the Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School at ABT, and joined ABT Studio Company two weeks later.
Pullen joined ABT as an apprentice in 2013.