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Spring/Summer 2017 Inspiration

by Emily DeLong | 06 March 17

Berthe Morisot, Reading, 1873

"What I wish to show when I paint is the way I see things with my eyes and in my heart." - Raoul Dufy

Spring is a much easier collection to design than fall, at least for me. I am so drawn to the all the classic springtime tropes, cliché as they may be — florals, pastels, gathered skirts, flowy fabrics — and I always seem to end up with a million ideas for flowy floral pastel sundresses, with their associated bows and collars and gathers and frills, that I cannot wait to start working on.

But that's where spring coming so easily to me makes it, in actuality, harder to pull off. Without restraint, my collection would end up being entirely pink, with flowers on everything and no fewer than three bows per garment. I really don't know why I'm so wired to make girly things (I mean, I'm a pretty girly person, but not exceedingly so), but I do know that without restraint and a clear direction, I'm not going to be happy with my work.

So, for SS17, I gave myself the ultimate challenge: design a spring/summer collection without any florals. I allowed myself some pink and some bows, because I wouldn't dare deprive myself completely. That challenge ended up providing me with enough direction and restraint to create a collection that I was content with.

Valentin Serov, Girl with Peaches, 1887

Even though I wasn't incorporating florals in the collection, I still wanted my collection reminiscent of florals and springtime, which is where my inspiration came in. I kept returning to the idea of simple, springy landscape paintings painted en plein air, where the artist paints what they see while in environment they are painting. But the more I pored over the Impressionistic landscapes of artists such as Monet, with their loose, serene brushstrokes and perfect capture of light, I couldn't help but notice that these artists were not just painting what they saw — they were also painting what they felt and thought.

I always used to think of the idea of painting en plein air as a way to make a painting more realistic, a way a painter could get the flowers and the tree branches at precise proportions, the shadows from the 5 o'clock sun accurately captured. And while that is certainly true (it's undoubtedly easier to paint a realistic-looking tuft of grass or cloud when you're staring at it), that is not always the point.

By being in the environment they are depicting, a painter ends up affecting the environment as much as it affects them, and the resulting art is a synthesis of painter and environment, an examination of the painter's heart and mind as much as the landscape itself. Shapes and colors are borrowed from the natural world but then filtered through the artist to become something that is less of an accurate depiction of the natural world and more of a representation of how the artist relates to the natural world.

I had fun thinking about the symbiotic relationship of artist to subject while I was designing, as the process of making clothing is somewhat analogous: I am taking elements of the natural world (cotton, linen, and silk, to be exact) and turning them into my impression of the natural world. Just as a painter painting en plein air becomes an element of the environment they wish to depict, clothing is linked to the natural world even if it is never worn outside.

While this idea of en plein air was a driving force behind the collection, it would be almost impossible to identify specific individual design elements that were clearly influenced by it. The collection is both literally (through its materials) and figuratively (through its shapes) derived from the outside world, but like an Impressionist painting, does not faithfully represent it. The clothing is intended to be worn outside, but not to blend into the environment — the colors I used, after all, are not dutiful depictions of a springtime palette but my impressions of how the first few days of warm weather every year make me feel.

One of my favorite sources for color inspiration, and a big source of color inspiration for SS17, is Raoul Dufy. His jubilant outdoor scenes are bursting with rich blues, greens, and yellows that are never quite faithful to the true colors of nature, which makes them so emotionally striking to me. His ability to capture the vivacity of the sea or the serenity of a park with limited brushstroke and almost-but-not-quite colors makes him one of my favorite artists.

When designing the color palette for SS17, I went with colors that reminded me of long, warm days rather than the colors actually found on warm, long days. Unsurprisingly, my palette ended up a lot like a Dufy painting.

You can take a look at our SS17 collection here.



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