At Home With… Karen Walker

April 08, 2020
At Home With… Karen Walker

The Kiwi fashion icon on hunkering down with Tom Hanks, her ‘super-geek’ podcast pick, and the pantry items she’s most grateful for.

Who’s in your isolation bubble?
My husband, Mikhail; my daughter, Valentina; and my dog, Laika.

Any projects for the next four weeks?
Empty my email’s in-tray. If that happens, then the big cupboard in my study that’s full of God only knows what is screaming for some attention.

What’s on your reading/podcast/movie list? 
Over the past two weeks I’ve done a Tom Hanks trilogy: Castaway, Saving Private Ryan and Apollo 13. Two reasons: 1) Tom Hanks had the virus, and 2) He’s so perfect as the ‘everyman’ thrust into a seemingly unwinnable, overwhelming and dangerous situation. They were amazingly comforting and there were some true moments of wisdom in there so now, on the rough days, all I need to ask myself is: “What would Tom Hanks do?” We followed that with season 10 of Curb Your Enthusiasm. I adore Larry David, and having him with me this past week’s been a real treat. Last night we did The Two Popes, which was a perfect bit of film-making. Next? Not sure but I think I could do with a laugh, so wondering about introducing my daughter to Peter Sellers’ finest: The Party

Normally my podcast library’s pretty heavy on current affairs and history. Now I’ve cut right back on current affairs and the history’s taken the front seat. I love In Our Time on BBC Radio 4 as they go super-deep on subjects I often have very little knowledge about and cover culture, history, philosophy, religion and science. It’s super-geek stuff. They’ve a huge back catalogue, and my favourites from over the years that I’m re-listening to include The Gin Craze, Picasso’s Guernica,The Covenanters, The Evolution of Teeth, Politeness, and Feathered Dinosaurs. Music-wise I’m sticking with Glenn Gould - always my favourite. But I’m interspersing that with some life-long favourites that always make me feel good including ‘Wild is the Wind’ (Nina Simone), ‘Be My Baby’ (The Ronettes), ‘My Name is Prince’ (Prince), ‘Babies’ (Pulp), ‘Perfect Day’ (Lou Reed), ‘Ghost Town’ (The Specials), ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’ (The Beatles) and ‘Move On Up’ (Curtis Mayfield). 

I’m reading The Collected Stories by Grace Paley. Set mostly in the New York of the ‘50s and ‘60s, the stories bump about between moving, hilarious, tragic, the personal and political and feminist. Mostly her stories happen at kitchen sinks and kitchen tables and on apartment stoops. She says: “…I had been sold pretty early on the idea that I might not be writing the important serious stuff. As a grown-up woman, I had no choice. Everyday life, kitchen life, children life had been handed to me, my portion, the beginning of big luck, though I didn’t know it.” 

What’s in your larder? Do you have like 20 cans of chickpeas and 1 carrot or are you pretty sorted?
I’m pretty well sorted actually. My pantry’s always well-stocked and my neighbour’s a great back-up for fresh herbs, spices, etc. Also, I’m lucky enough to have had a very good honey harvest this past summer so there are about 60 jars sitting in my pantry thanks to my clever little bees.

What are you glad/regretting you stocked up on?
I’m glad I brought the coffee machine home from work and got my delivery from Coffee Supreme in time. Also that I got my big delivery of Storm + India’s Imperial Earl Grey tea. As long as I have those two things I’m reasonably happy.

Who’s doing the cooking?
It’s everyone for themselves at breakfast. My husband does lunch. I do dinner. My daughter does one dinner on the weekends.

What’s the first thing you’ll be doing when isolation ends (apart from catching up with friends of course)?
Seeing my work team face-to-face instead of via FaceTime.