Walter Holmes was born in London in 1934, the youngest of 11 children. With only two years of formal education, Holmes entered an apprenticeship at a London custom tailor’s shop before serving two years in the British Army. After his release in 1954, Holmes worked as a photographer’s assistant, commercial artist, theatre costume designer, and also immigrated to Chicago at some point during the late 1950s.
In 1962 Holmes created his first couture collection and with financial backing from socialite Norisse Rant, he opened his salon ‘Walter Holmes Inc.’ at 134 E. Delaware in Chicago in the fall of 1963. For fall 1964 he did a line for Harmon Knitwear as well as some designs sold exclusively through Bonwit Teller.
In 1968 he got a lot of press for the ‘mediaeval minis’ he created under the Paraphernalia label that looked like nun’s habits with micro-mini hemlines – the Catholic church was not amused. In 1969 Holmes was selected to create designs for the flight attendants of Hugh Hefner’s big black bunny plane, which lead to a job as the men’s fashion editor of Playboy magazine in the 1970s.
By 1973 Holmes no longer seems to be designing but by the early 1980s his name appears again in conjunction with men’s wear, including a Walter Holmes line of sweaters and suits through the Chicago firm of Bigsby and Kruthers. His name stops appearing in newspaper searches after 1987, which correlates to about the same time that Holmes got turned onto yoga; he is now a yoga master.