Now a jewellery designer, Karen’s breathtakingly beautiful designs will be showcased on our very own Topshop Unique runway and believe us when we say, just one look at her pieces and we guarantee your Unique SS13 wishlist is about to soar through the roof. In anticipation of Sunday’s show, we managed to sneak a few minutes with the talented lady herself to talk all things design from her inspirations, personal style and of course, Topshop Unique!
How did you get into jewellery design?
I’ve always loved jewellery but could never find the pieces I wanted so I decided to learn how to make them for myself. When I left school I studied fashion technology in Glasgow, then moved to London where I had a 6-year modelling career. After that I completed an HND in jewellery silver-smithing.
Do you have a favourite aspect to your work?
Being inspired; visualising a design in my head and following it through to a finished product I’m proud of. I also love sourcing materials such as the precious and semi-precious beads I use a lot in my work – I get really excited by stones!
Where do you draw your inspiration?
From my everyday life, the natural environment, fashion, film, architecture, the Art Deco period and the materials themselves.
What was the first piece of jewellery you ever made?
When I was about 10 or 11, I made some earrings for my mum to take to work to try and sell for me. My granddad was always tinkering about with watches and bits of jewellery, I loved that, so I ended up being the jewellery repairer of the family when I was about 12, everyone came to me to fix things!
How did you become the jewellery designer for Topshop Unique SS13?
Head Designer Emma Farrow saw my jewellery at a pop-up shop I held and she asked me if I’d be interested in designing a collection for the Unique SS13 show and naturally I jumped at the chance. I was really happy about the prospect of being involved with it all – I still am!
Can you tell us about the process/working with the team?
Emma sent over the brief, mood board and material swatches and then we had a meeting about what look they wanted. I put some ideas down, sourced the materials, made up some samples to show her and the team and we went from there.
Who is the Topshop Unique girl for you?
I think it has to be an amalgamation of Lauren Bacall, Lauren Hutton, Faye Dunaway in Bonnie and Clyde and Katharine Hepburn. Christy Turlington too, she was always my favourite supermodel!
Can you describe your personal style?
I try not to conform to trends and think it’s important to have your own sense of style. My look is quite eclectic so I’m always throwing things together in unlikely combos, mixing things up a bit and hopefully making them work! I like classic looks but try and make them look a bit edgier. When I’m at my workshop I’ll usually wear some comfy jeans or an easy, flowing dress nothing too restrictive and I always make sure I’ve got a pair of heels there for that impromptu after-work drink. I’m quite good at finding things in charity and vintage shops too – it’s funny how suddenly that’s become the rage! I’ve amassed quite a wardrobe of years of hunting in shops, probably too much!
Who are your favourite designers?
Alexander McQueen is amazing, Burberry Prorsum too for beautiful coats and jackets. I love Roksanda Ilincic for gorgeous glamorous dresses, Dolce & Gabanna, fellow Scotsmen Jonathan Saunders and Christopher Kane…I could go on….Oh and I loved Unique’s AW12 show – really beautiful pieces, so I’m looking forward to seeing SS13 in all it’s glory!
Where are your favourite hangouts in London?
I love J Sheekey’s for oysters and champagne and try and Eltham Palace for its stunning Art Deco inspiration. Frank’s pop-up bar in Peckham has the most amazing views over London, it’s on the top floor of a car park – you can pretty much find me anywhere with a roof garden!
What do you do to relax?
I love walking and cycling around London or going to galleries such as the V&A and the British Museum and smaller indie ones too. And I’m happy anywhere that has good food and good wine along with the great company of my friends or equally having a pint in my local in Brixton. I try to go home to the west coast of Scotland as often as possible too as the scenery is astounding and it’s where I really feel I can relax the most. I love the great outdoors in general!