Fall/Winter 2017 Inspiration
by Emily DeLong
19 September 2017
Despite the fact that I feel like my Fall/Winter 2017 collection was rushed and riddled with compromises, when I look back on it, I think it truly is my most polished and conceptually cohesive collection to date. I also think it's my best collection to date, although I say that with a lot of personal reservation, knowing that I could have done better, had I more time and resources and skills, but at some point you have to put your needle and thread (and iron and sewing machine and shears) down and call things good enough.
One of the hardest things for me (and I'm sure this is something most other artists and creative people can relate to) is balancing my perfectionism with the fact that my skills aren't (yet!) at the point where I want them to be. Settling for good enough is so tough, but if I waited for "perfect," I don't think I would ever release anything ever!
I wanted to write this blog post to show you the many things that inspired my FW17 collection and pushed it in different directions while I designed it. My inspiration came from a lot of different, seemingly incongruous places this time, but somehow my subconscious mashed them all together in a way that made the collection make sense.
The title of my FW17 collection is Above the Sea of Fog, and it was named for the artwork that gave me the first bit on inspiration for the collection, Caspar David Friedrich's Wanderer above the Sea of Fog:
Chances are you've seen this painting (or at least a parody of it) before, as it's pretty firmly part of both the pop-culture and art canons at this point. I had never really thought much of the piece, honestly, until earlier this year, when I was digging through Wikipedia and felt like I truly saw it for the first time.
The symbolism of it really hit me: the vastness yet closeness of the space, the despair yet optimism of the scene, the power yet insignificance of the mysterious "wanderer." The moment I read the passage from John Lewis Gaddis suggesting that the painting's central premise "is contradictory, suggesting at once mastery over a landscape and the insignificance of the individual within it," I knew that was going to be the basis of my collection. I always seem to come back to the theme of the discord between nature and humanity when designing my collections (perhaps because the act of clothing design itself is both in harmony and in discord with nature), and this particular interpretation of that theme really excited me this time. Our attempts at mastering nature seem so futile when compared to the great vastness of nature and our personal insignificance, yet try (and fail) we still do, for better or for worse.
As FW17 planning progressed, I dove deep into a Friedrich obsession and began studying many of his other paintings. His proto-surreal, vast landscapes filled with loneliness and symbolism really struck me, as did the fact that nearly all the human subjects in his paintings appear with their back turned.
Even his most depressing paintings have a glimmer of hope; even his most optimistic paintings have an undertone of despair. Emotions rarely come strictly by themselves — they're mostly a garbled mess of often-opposite feelings waiting to be untangled — and I love how Friedrich captures that idea so well in his work.
Friedrich's paintings certainly inspired a few of my color choices for FW17. His continual use of a dark, silvan evergreen both in the landscapes of his work and on the clothes of his subjects (green signifying the color of hope) inspired the Evergreen Corduroy fabric in my collection. And the bright, nature-defying red worn by Friedrich's young wife in Chalk Cliffs on Rügen was part of the reason behind the bright shade of red of FW17's Holly Berry Silk Noil fabric, too.
That said, not everything about my FW17 collection was inspired by Friedrich. As I often do, I ended up turning to Henri Matisse for additional color inspiration.
I was already set on using a dark, deep evergreen as the anchor color of FW17 by the time I was looking at Matisse, but what I discovered while looking at Matisse was just how dynamic his use of the color green is. The shades of green he picked and the colors he paired them with always result in such wild, vibrant, lively pieces of art. Above, he pairs a dark evergreen with orange and blue to vivacious effect; below, he pairs a similar shade of green with a more subdued, sepia-tone palette for a more introspective look:
With the color choices for FW17, I tried to follow Matisse's lead, using green as an anchor and combining it with other vibrant shades (saffron yellow! fire red!) as well as more subdued tones (mocha brown, dark eggplant) to create a balanced palette.
As far as silhouettes go, I know I wanted to play off Friedrich's dark Romanticism with elongated skirts and sleeves, clothes that would befit a somber, debris-filled wooded landscape as much as they might an office holiday party, but I wasn't totally sure where to take those ideas from there. But the more I thought about elongated, dramatic lines, my designs kept getting more and more dramatic and detailed, and I began to look to the 1930s for more ideas.
The 1930s may very well be my favorite decade in fashion. It was a return to femininity after the boyishness of the 20s, but before the rationing and resultant conservative style caused by WWII. There was crazy sleeves, Hollywood glamour, and feminine shapes, but there was also utility, comfort, and understated elegance.
Not every piece in my FW17 collection is overtly 1930s-inspired (such a commitment to one decade would be no fun!), but a lot of my inspiration is taken from there. I also pulled inspiration from the 1970s (I like to think of that decade as an odd sort of parallel to the '30s, in way), as well as the Art Deco fashion illustrations, by George Barbier and A.E. Marty and others, and old covers of Vogue and The New Yorker and Vanity Fair:
I think I could pore through these illustrations forever and never get bored! Not only is the fashion so inspirational, but the composition of the illustrations themselves is so inventive and fun.
A final source of inspiration for FW17 was the Argentinian-born French artist Leonor Fini. I first learned about her in an article on Messy Nessy Chic (one of my favorite places to wander down rabbit holes of forgotten history), and her confidence and poise navigating (and succeeding in!) a "men only" profession still inspires me when I think about it.
Leonor Fini was one of the only female surrealists of the 20th century (I'm saying she's a surrealist here even though she didn't exactly associate herself with the movement), and her art centers around the theme of the power of women. (Some of her art is NSFW, so be careful if you Google her!)
In addition to being an artist, Fini was an outlandish personality in the Paris art scene and was known for her bohemian lifestyle and fierce sense of independence. One of the dresses from my FW17 collection, the Leonor, was named for her.
Our FW17 collection is coming out soon, and I can't wait for you to see it! Make sure you're signed up for our email list to know the moment it comes out.