Tempe Nakiska is a freelance journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. She writes for publications including DAZED & CONFUSED, INTERVIEW MAGAZINE, HERO-ZINE and OYSTER, exploring the workings of design through words.

Karla Špetić

Fallen magazine - March 2012

The atypical beauty of Karla Špetić’s designs and their individuality through her dialogue between restrained tailoring and bold prints.

Karla Špetić is evolving. Learning and growing, changing and shifting – as is her self-titled label. Sydney-based Karla produces work that is impacted by a constant flux of creative inspirations, from the environmental to the aesthetic. In this way, she and her designs are riding an endless flight of creative energy, circling into different forms with every new experience. “As a designer and a person I’m evolving myself,” says Karla. “As you grow things change, and so naturally I’m refining the way I work and create and hence the designs that become the final result.”

Karla Spetic AW12 Autumn Winter 2012 Heart 2

A refined aesthetic could be touted as at the heart of the Karla Špetić label. Its sophisticated yet dreamily irreverent character lies embedded in the dichotomy of male-meets-female fashion. Boxy blazers, adroitly tailored pants and crisp shirts are the cornerstones of every collection. Her penchant for severe cuts is relaxed with feminine prints, fruity colours and slouchy forms, most in natural fibres like cotton and silk.

Born in Croatia and raised in Australia, Karla has formed her label’s unique identity by observing the various interactions and landscapes around her. Each of her collections portrays a vivid interpretation of a moment or idea she has captured in her mind. For example, the concept behind her SS10 collection, Centre, was rooted in the shift between indigenous and non-indigenous cultures she witnessed in Warwick Thornton’s film Samson & Delilah, while AW11's Borderlands turned eclectic street style observations into a concise range of modern wardrobe staples juxtaposed against more theatrical pieces.

Key to Karla’s design process is the filtering of her environment; once something catches the attention of her keen eye, she can’t help but interpret it through design. “I try not to sit down and think about what I’m going to make the collection into; I think it works better for me just to be swallowed by my surroundings and translate what I see into clothing that speaks of real life, in my own way,” she says.

Karla is always ravenous for the undiscovered, driven by an insatiable appetite for a more pure design quality, and to further her knowledge of fashion and the world. She is also an impossibly independent character, critical of herself and determined to push her skills to new levels. From the beginning, Karla was determined to find success as a designer via her own path. She started her own label just two years out from completing a fashion design degree at Sydney’s TAFE Design Institute in 2005. “I didn’t have a plan; the label just happened and evolved,” she says. Through having worked with others in the fashion industry before starting her eponymous label, Karla learnt her independence ruled when decision time came. “I just couldn’t bring myself to work under anyone else after finishing, I had too many of my own ideas so felt that I just had to go my own way.”

Karla Spetic AW12 Autumn Winter 2012 Heart 2

Although fashion design is a long learning process, it is the continually developing nature of each seasonal fashion cycle that Karla relishes. While the origins of her label lie in a clean look with an undeniably youthful nonchalance, Karla’s last two collections have held a more mature, worldly feel. Hemlines extend further, silhouettes are sharper and pants cleanly taper. Through these subtle alterations, the Karla Špetić wearer has thus acquired a greater sense of self and the world she inhabits.

Karla feels that her current direction doesn’t necessarily target a more mature market, but reflects her own direction as a person and designer. Such observations perhaps also stem from Karla’s forward- thinking approach to fashion, and passion for interpreting masculine clothing accents for the female body. For Karla, male fashion is a constant source of experimentation for new forms of beauty. “Male suiting and tailoring is so clean and fuss free. I think that women can look beautiful in menswear too, you don’t have to be wearing a super girly dress to look feminine,” she says.

Her SS11 collection, Porcelain, channeled slick Danish design as a masculine counterpart to the smoothly feminine prints she created from enlarged Portuguese tile patterns. The clean-cut silhouette of blazers, and simple singlets and skirts, was contrasted with graphic prints, sharp cut out features, and a surprising sorbet palette of colour-block tones.

Colour is another zealous topic for Karla; every season allows a new exploration in tone and its many aesthetic possibilities. “I respond to colour and I can’t not have it in my collections,” Karla says. “I like clean shapes and silhouettes and I think if you have something quite simple and you inject it with a print or a colour it gives it a point of difference.”

Her AW12 collection is set to take the wearer on another rich journey through the inspiration of pop art genius Roy Lichtenstein and classic comic books, contrasted with the simple structures of vintage garb. “I couldn’t help but want to work from these vintage 1950s photographs of gorgeous women working factories in men’s style overalls and shirts,” she says. “It was still beautiful and quite feminine, but a stronger form of feminine.”

A strong form of feminine – bold, self-assured and sophisticated – is where Karla Špetić is grounded. As the designer continues to push herself into new territories, the Karla Špetić wearer also evolves into something more powerful and magnificent.

Published in Fallen, March 2012