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Spring/Summer 2018 Inspiration

by Emily DeLong | 14 May 18

Not to state the obvious or anything, but I had birds on my mind when designing Spring/Summer 2018. Not just birds, though — Aristophanes's The Birds, a comic play about two men who convince all the world's birds to create a utopian city in the sky. The play itself is altogether silly, with themes neither serious nor deep, but upon re-reading it last year I got to thinking about the very nature of birds and the concept of utopia.

Although I am certainly no ornithological expert, birds have always been a fascination of mine — and given their prevalence in poetry and art and literature throughout history, I'm guessing I'm not alone. Birds are so ornate, their wings so bright and colorful, and despite their flashiness making them an easy target of prey, they live on. Birds are so seemingly free, making their home in places we can reach, establishing their dominion in what almost seems like another world up in the sky.

Given how their very existence can feel almost incomprehensible to us mere land-dwellers, the idea of a kingdom in the sky truly does feel utopic. And yet we cannot have what birds have; the very fact that we cannot have it is what makes them so special to us. We cannot build a kingdom up in the sky (at least not without birds' help); we should not strive for something so outside our means. There is be folly in over-confidence, in over-optimism, however pure and well-intentioned.

That's not to say that birds and utopia were the things that directly influenced the collection — rather, they were the things floating around in my head while I began sketching and drafting patterns for SS18. I wanted the details of the garments to subtly resemble birds — the wings of the Swan and Dove, the dramatic drape of the Swallow, the playfulness of the Piper, the scallops of the Roadrunner — but I didn't want SS18 to be an all-out "bird collection," and for this collection I also found inspiration from my usual sources (vintage fashion, art, etc.) as well as listening to my intuition and following along with the ideas (some of which worked, some of which didn't) that popped into my head along the way.

My color inspiration this time around came from Victorian naturalist paintings by the biologist and artist Marianne North. North was an intrepid world traveler who studied, wrote, and painted the flora and fauna she encountered along the way. What I love about her paintings is that while they do have a technical and scientific bent, within them all lies the unmistakable eye of an artist, subtly bending the world to her will. North's use of color in particular is what drew me to her work in the first place — it is bright and saturated almost to the point of being otherworldly, which is what I tried to do with my color scheme for SS18.

For this season's custom print, I used a Victorian-era floral textile print I had found as my inspiration. I retained the delicate and ornate shapes of the flowers, leaves, and birds from the original print, but I completely abandoned the original sepia-tone color scheme in favor of a North-inspired palette. I kept bumping up the saturation as far as I felt comfortable going — at first I was worried it was too much, but I grew to love how bright it is.

I named each piece in the collection after a different bird, and with each garment I tried to capture part of the essence of each. Working within those constraints was difficult for me (I ended up needing to change the names of a few of the styles along the way to fit the garments better), but it was a challenge that I enjoyed. I feel like my best work, creatively speaking, has often come out of having constraints, and sometimes self-created constraints are just what I need to push forward. (Sometimes all I need is a long nap and a piece of cake, too.)

Take a look at the Spring/Summer 2018 collection here.