Thursday, May 24, 2018

Karla Welch: "I Want To Be A Brand That Walks The Talk"

Karla Welch is a woman with real pulling power. One of Hollywood’s leading stylists – Tracee Ellis Ross, Ruth Negga, Amber Heard, Karlie Kloss and Sarah Paulson all have her on speed dial – she used her bulging black book of contacts as a platform to launch her own brand, xkarla, two years ago.

xkarla – named after the way the stylist signs off her emails – kicked off with a collection of white T-shirts in collaboration with Hanes. “I did it as a way to go after and create my own opportunities rather than wait on brands to approach me,” she told Vogue. “I wanted to explore more than just styling. It's a chance for me to create products and create all the creative around the products.”

Now, after a hectic awards season, Welch is back with her next project in partnership with Levi Strauss & Co. In honour of the brand's pseudo-holiday, 501 Day, on May 20, she has reimagined the brand’s 501 jeans and a handful of other denim staples, including a reversible Sherpa jacket, boiler suit, Western shirt, oversized cropped Trucker, and leather fringe Trucker – the latter rather fabulously is rooted in her childhood fascination with the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.

Naturally, she called on her clients and friends to help model her indigo wares, and the campaign is an A-Z of Hollywood’s elite, plus a handful of successful, super-cool music artists. Amber Heard, Amber Valletta, Hailey Baldwin, Yara Shahidi, Tracee Ellis Ross, America Ferrera, SZA, Karen O, Lisa Love and SoKo all feature in the portraits, and there's a bonus video to the sounds of Yoko Ono’s “Yang Yang”.

When asked whether she ever imagined she’d be riffling through Levi’s archive, seeing her designs plastered across America’s billboards, and dressing “women who represent themselves to the fullest,” she says, “honestly, yes. I sort of know what path I’m on, and I’m putting in the work to do it.”

It’s a smart partnership for both brand and super-stylist. Welch has a loyal client list to wear and promote her designs, and she can offer up valuable expertise on exactly what her clients actually want to wear. Her tie-ups are not rooted in Instagram likes or her bank balance, but “what makes something both democratic and iconic.”

Her democratic vision extends to philanthropy, and she is driven to make a difference. “This is my purpose: to take what I do creatively and use it for social change.” Accordingly, Levi’s is making a donation to her charity of choice, the Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund. “When I’m forming partnerships I’m clear from the get go that this is my brand ethos and that I want a piece of the product to go to a specific charity, which is always changing.

Though she won’t disclose which “icons” she’ll collaborate with next, her mission statement – "I want to be a brand that walks the talk and I want to influence others to do the same” – will see brands lining up around the block.

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