Installation view of Kara Baker Couture (front) on display in <em>Fashion Now</em> as part of the <em>Melbourne Now</em> exhibition at The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne from 24 March – 20 August 2023.   Image: Sean Fennessy

Kara Baker Couture

Kara Baker Couture
(est. 2009, Melbourne)

Kara Baker Couture is an artisanal label founded by its eponymous couturière. Her seasonal collections are inspired by the sensibilities of the late 1960s and early 1970s and are made to order from Baker’s assemblage of vintage European silks, wools, cottons and linens, which she personally sources. Baker uses deadstock and remnant fabrics – a sustainable approach that she has practised for years. All her couture pieces are handcrafted and made to measure for each client, ensuring each is unique.

On display at Melbourne Now are two dresses that exemplify Baker’s continual exploration and reinterpretation of glamour, cut and silhouette. One, Talitha, is a signature design: a perennial dress that has featured in every one of the designer’s collections for the past fourteen years. The dress is a homage to Talitha Getty – a Dutch actress, socialite and model at the epicentre of the rich hippie jet set of the late 1960s – who became Baker’s muse for exploring haute bohemian fashion. Here, Talitha has been created in a patchwork of beautiful colours, prints and patterns typical of Baker’s aesthetic sensibility.

Baker has been part of Australia’s fashion landscape for more than four decades. After training in New Zealand, she worked in costume design and fashion houses in Chicago, London and Antwerp, before moving to Melbourne in 1981. Her highly acclaimed first label Sirens (1984–1992) was featured at Fashion: The Contemporary Art at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum (1989) and 200 Years of Australian Fashion at the NGV (2016). She has also been a fashion design lecturer at RMIT University and a trend forecaster for Myer. After working exclusively with private clients by appointment from her CBD atelier, which revives the traditional Parisian salon experience, in 2021 Baker launched a ready-to-wear collection and established an online store.