Kara Baker is what the French call la perle rare. The rare pearl, that exceptionally precious thing that is so hard to come by – and a real joy to find. She’s also what the French call a couturière. Inadequately translated as ‘seamstress’, even worse as ‘dress-maker’, English lacks the gravitas her métier implies.
Headquartered in a first-floor walkup in Melbourne’s downtown, Kara Baker provides a unique service to a select clientèle. She measures, fits, drafts, cuts, sews, refits and delivers individually-tailored garments to women with a refined eye, an appreciation for sublime detail. In the process she becomes counsel, confidante, friend. It’s an experience that today may seem an indulgence, but until some fifty years ago was simply a reality.
While the introduction of ready-to-wear is responsible for putting most couturières out of business, at the pointy end of the luxury business there is a revival of interest in the hand-crafted, the authentic, the seriously one-off.
Kara’s aesthetic bounces about the same period YSL Rive Gauche first saw the light of day. Her’s is essentially a late 1960s, street-chic vibe. Talitha Getty in Marrakesh. Diana Vreeland at Vogue. Jackie Onassis, perhaps still Mrs Kennedy, globe-trotting either way. Timeless icons all. It’s at the intersection of high and low that she gains traction, creates a frisson.
“I’m not interested in dictating a look,” she says, “It’s more about opening up a dialogue with the customer – often an ongoing one since so many of them become regular clients.” It’s a dialogue interwoven with the notions of integrity, history, attention to detail and full customer service – the essence of luxury now. “I’ve made conscious decision to remain small, concise, detail driven and hands-on. Mine is a highly individualized craft, and I strive to retain that feeling.”
Since her first job as pattern maker for the New Zealand Ballet & Opera Co, then her second working alongside Zandra Rhodes in London, she has understood the power of clothing to convey a message of elegance and individuality, through correct measures of fabric and fit. As fashion becomes a mega-billion dollar business, and mass brands like Zara, H&M and Uniqlo take over the high street, designers like Kara Baker are more and more scarce. La perle rare.
Words: Stephen Todd
Do you have a special event that you’d like to look your very best for? Have you ever wondered about the experience of having something specially designed to suit your unique qualities?
We invite you to meet Kara Baker onsite Saturday 31 August or after 4.30pm on Tuesday, 3 and Wednesday 4 September to discover the art of made to measure.
Talk to Kara about how she sources beautiful fabrics to create timeless designs and understand the special process that is made to measure.
Meet the Maker: Kara Baker will be onsite Saturday 31 August or after 4.30pm on Tuesday, 3 and Wednesday 4 September