Tea Roses rug.
She returned to New York, still obsessed with the desire to paint but unsure how to turn passion into profit. As it happened, a family friend who was linked to the fashion industry caught sight of Parker’s homemade book of small textile designs. Impressed, the woman connected Parker to her first New York studio job.
“I couldn’t believe that someone would actually hire me to paint,” says Parker, who spent those early years learning the trade and turning out textile designs for clothing lines. But the work felt unnatural. “I had to learn the same techniques taught at fashion design schools. It was a bit like boot camp in some cases, and things went rather against my own free-handed approach and expression.” Still, she played along and learned the techniques, but without abandoning the “naïf voice” that separates her designs from others in the textile industry.
But ever yearning for more creative freedom, Parker eventually broke free from the fashion industry and struck out on her own, creating designs that found homes in the collections of Calvin Klein, Donna Karan, JCrew, Oscar De La Renta, Diane Von Furstenburg, and more. Encouraged by her husband—web designer and publicist Felipe Porto—she trudged up and down Broadway and Seventh Avenue, making herself known to potential buyers and gathering a large Rolodex of clients. A textile agent then taught her a unique technique for painting on silk, which increased Parker’s sales dramatically.
“I had been painting on paper until then,” she says. “But silk had such a sensual surface quality and also a succulent color saturation. My color sense, which had always been my strong point, finally found a perfect partner.”
The 2001 Licensing Show in New York was a turning point in Parker’s career. Companies such as Block China and Editions Limited were seeking new talent and offering artists the financial means to back and create their own brands. Fueled by a newfound confidence, Parker took the ultimate plunge and launched a collection of her own, Kim Parker Home. The high-end line of bedding, bath, rugs, fabrics, pillows, journals, and posters—all featuring her exuberant prints—quickly attracted top retailers.
London’s premier rug manufacturer, The Rug Company, immediately signed Parker for her own high-end rug collection, of which her rug Mums & Asters landed London’s prestigious D&D (Design & Decoration) Award, as well as an Elle Decoration Award. A prominent New York bedding manufacturer offered Parker her own bedding and bath collections, carried exclusively by Bloomingdale’s. These days, her vibrant blooms light up the housewares and stationery shelves of department stores around the country, as well as such retailers as Crate & Barrel and Barnes and Noble.
Reviews of her line are solid. “The
bedding, rugs, and fabrics ... call to mind the rigorous elegance
of the Arts and Crafts Movement,” reads Elle magazine. “Fashionable
people will be tucking themselves into bed with Kim Parker’s
charming prints,” adds Vogue Living. “Her designs
are deftly orchestrated pastoral symphonies of brilliant color,” reads Country
Meanwhile, Parker keeps charting new territory. She made her television debut in August with a feature segment on the Fine Living channel’s Sheila Bridges: Designer Living program. Her first children’s book, Counting in the Garden, will be published by Scholastic this spring, coinciding with the launch of her children’s bedding collection.
“If you had asked me 10 years ago if this is where I’d be today, I’d have laughed,” she says. “I feel as if I’ve lived many lives, but every door I have walked through has enriched my journey. I’ve never let go of my passion.”
For more on Parker’s work, visit www.kimparker.tv.