COVID-19, creativity and positivity with Kara Baker of Kara Baker Couture
2020 has been a year of incredible highs and devastating lows, and we’re not even halfway through April. After an Australian summer rife with drought and bushfire, we’ve continued to face blow after blow with rapid changes in the face of COVID-19.
In the wake of it all though, I’ve found solace and strength in talking openly with my close-knit community of Melbourne creatives. I’ve realised that we’re all in the same boat (or on different boats on very choppy seas!) and what I’m feeling is – normal.
So, I wanted to share what it means to be a creative in such a challenging time, and who better to talk with than some of my closest fashion industry friends. To help support each other, inspire each other, and uplift each other as we all each adjust to ‘the new norm’, we’re chatting honestly about COVID-19 and its impacts on our community of Australian fashion industry creatives …
Today, I’m talking with Kara Baker of Kara Baker Couture, and she’s a good friend, industry colleague, and fellow couturière. We ended March on a high together with the launch of our project Fashion By Appointment – with Nevada Duffy and Estelle Michaelides – at Virgin Australia Melbourne Fashion Festival, only to start April in isolation.
Kara is a fashion survivor.
She has worked in fashion for 45 years, beginning her career as a costume pattern cutter for the NZ Ballet and Opera Company. Kara has held more roles in the fashion industry than I could possibly list here, including running her label ‘Sirens’ which she sold through boutiques Australia-wide in the eighties and early nineties.
Kara is a font of fashion knowledge, and a serious collector, creating elegant made-to-measure pieces from her vast collection of vintage European fabrics.
What does a day in your shoes ‘normally’ look like?
My year is divided into two different activities; mostly on a day to day basis I’m seeing clients for appointments and making their orders. But when I’m designing new collections, I shut myself away for a month to create them – this is my time of pure creativity. I work from home, so my life has not changed drastically.
How has COVID-19 changed the way you work?
I had a lot of orders on my books and was just about to launch A/W20 when COVID-19 hit. Orders have been postponed as clients can no longer attend fittings and I was unable to hold my cocktail party launch or shoot the new winter collection for my website.
Instead, in the last three weeks I’ve designed and made a luxury accessory named the Fichu – padded wraps in wool and silk (which are reversible). These can be ordered and paid for over the phone and posted to clients. The Fichu was launched in a mail out to my clients. My next project is to develop new collections for my online store.
Follow Kara Baker on Instagram @karabakercouture
What are you struggling with most?
The weirdness of it all. The sudden loss of income is the most shocking.
What silver lining has come out of this for you?
I’m finally working on an e-commerce platform for my brand; I’ve been thinking about this for a while and now have time to pursue it.
How are you balancing stress with optimism at the moment?
I remind myself that this is not my fault and that stressing and worrying is a waste of my time and energy. When it all gets too much, I take the dog for a long walk in nature with my pockets empty so I can’t buy chocolate along the way.
What are you doing to stay productive, positive and creative?
There is so much to do! I’m just as busy as I was before COVID-19, but without client deadlines. I’m being creative – researching and designing for Kara Baker Online. Next, I’ll be busy with pattern making and sampling garments. I’m excited by this new phase of my business.
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