Fall/Winter 2018 Inspiration

by Emily Rowe | 27 August 18

It all started with a book.

I was in the very early planning stages for our Fall/Winter 2018 collection, with a few ideas floating around in my head as far as styles and fabrics go, when, in search of inspiration, I opened up a compilation of Victorian poetry I had bought years ago but admittedly never read.

I opened the book to a poem I had forgotten I had read before, years ago, and reading (and remembering) it again filled me with a rush of excitement:

 

Márgarét, áre you gríeving
Over Goldengrove unleaving?
Leáves like the things of man, you
With your fresh thoughts care for, can you?
Ah! ás the heart grows older
It will come to such sights colder
By and by, nor spare a sigh
Though worlds of wanwood leafmeal lie;
And yet you wíll weep and know why.
Now no matter, child, the name:
Sórrow’s spríngs áre the same.
Nor mouth had, no nor mind, expressed
What heart heard of, ghost guessed:
It ís the blight man was born for,
It is Margaret you mourn for.

 - Gerard Manley Hopkins, "Spring and Fall," 1880

 

I hadn't ready a poem by Hopkins in a long time, and I forgot how much I loved him. His lyricism, his incredible command of meter, his ability to create new words (wanwood, leafmeal) that is only bested by Shakespeare, his ability to articulate his faith so boldly in his words — needless to say, I fell hard. And then I began to read the rest of the book, filled with poems from Tennyson to Arnold to the Brownings to Rossettis. And in the meantime, I began designing Fall/Winter 2018, with some of the poems I read in mind.

 

John William Waterhouse, The Lady of Shalott, 1888

I didn't exactly design each piece with a particular poem in mind, but I ended up naming each piece with some poetic reference in mind. And I didn't design each piece with only the Victorian period in mind, either — I don't believe women wore wrap dresses or wide-leg trousers back then — but I tried to imbue each piece with the spirit of the art of the time.

 

Dante Gabriel Rossetti, The Day Dream, 1880

With Victorian poetry being a major source of inspiration for my FW18 collection, it was inevitable that the art of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood would also become a factor. There are many things I love about the art from this period in history, but one of the things I love the most is how intertwined art and literature were, in a way that it'd be hard to argue they are today. Case in point: Dante Gabriel Rossetti was both an accomplished painter and poet, and so many of the paintings from this time were of literary subjects, all the way from Greek mythology to Shakespeare to Arthurian legend to the literature of the time.

 

John Everett Millais, Ophelia,1852

Like many of my inspirations, what started as a cursory glance at Rossetti's (and Millais's, and Waterhouse's) paintings turned into a rabbithole into obsession. There is so much drama and sorrow in their art, and I wanted to capture just a bit of that richness in my collection.

 

John William Waterhouse, The Soul of the Rose, 1908

Mary Cassatt was also a big inspiration of mine while designing our FW18 collection. Her subjects, almost entirely women, stately and strong yet compassionate and maternal, were a significant piece of the inspiration behind the silhouettes of this season's pieces. But what struck me earlier this year, and what most visibly inspired me from Cassatt's work in this collection, were her floral prints, painted on dresses and upholstery and wallpaper in a number of her paintings. They are very brushstroke-y, slightly abstract, almost-but-not-quite chintzy — a small, almost inconsequential detail to many but, to me, utterly beguiling. (It was only later that I realized that most of Cassatt's paintings with these prints were part of her japonisme period, inspired by Japanese ukiyo-e paintings, which explains why, as someone obsessed with everything Japanese, I was so drawn to them in the first place.)

 

Mary Cassatt, The Letter, 1890-1891

Mary Cassatt, The Kiss, 1890-1891

The title of this season's collection is Goldengrove Unleaving, named after the Hopkins poem I quoted above. Autumn is such an incredible time of year — there is an inevitable sense of death and decay and ending that can be easily turned into a metaphor for life in general, but despite the gloom there exists a warm glow, even as the days turn shorter and the nights get chillier. Or, as John Keats writes is in his poem "To Autumn":

 

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too

 

I have trouble deciding which season is my favorite, spring or fall, and usually my favorite is the one that is soonest approaching. They both have their own music, and perhaps I shouldn't bother choosing.

This collection certainly wasn't without its setbacks, but I really enjoyed designing it over the last several months — from the very beginning, when I was full of ideas and dreaming of pleats galore, to the middle, when I was frantically trying to figure out how to grade knife pleats from size 00 to size 16, to the end, when I was frantically trying to sew those billion knife pleats that I had so painstakingly drafted. In all, I'm proud of this collection, and I hope it speaks to you.