Goddess of the Sea: Romantic Seduction, Naturalism and Beauty
Catherine Baldwin- born in Suffolk, UK in 1994. She will receive her BA (Hons) Fashion and Textiles degree from the Colchester School of Art in 2017 and is currently also a bridal consultant at Abigail’s Collection and Grooms Room, Colchester. Catherine’s achievements in fashion and textiles to date include being shortlisted for the 2017 Nicole Abbott Award for Sir Paul Smith, and winning a paid internship at Paul Dennicci Limited in childrenswear. As a designer Catherine is very inspired by the natural world and believes designers have a duty to communicate about current environmental, social or political issues. After graduation Catherine will be volunteering in Costa Rica on a turtle conservation programme which she envisages will provide creative inspiration that will help in the future when designing accessories and in making wiser ethical choices in fashion creation. Following this Catherine aims to join an ethically and environmentally-conscious design team whilst also continuing to establish herself as a freelance designer. Catherine’s final collection for the BA (Hons), Goddess of the Sea, will be presented at the prestigious Firstsite Gallery in Colchester (2017).
Goddess of the Sea is a womenswear collection exploring the fictional myth of the mermaid through research into the tales and beliefs of 18th century sailors and the Royal Navy. Mermaids were powerful creatures who used beauty and song to lure sailors to their death. The collection celebrates the more sinister aspect of the myth as the ensemble combines heavy masculine fabrics of the deceased sailors’ clothing with sequinned embellishments representing the mermaid’s fish-scales and seductive, revealing sheer lightweight fabrics.
The combination of gender contrasts represents the power of the women of the target audience: the strong masculine elements from the Royal Navy uniform combined with beguiling feminine construction details and prints empower the women. Similarly the masculine nautical monochrome colour palette is mixed with more feminine splashes of bright colour.
The pre-collection, Fragile Ocean, communicated a message of the need to act to preserve the natural beauty and biodiversity of the coral reefs. The foreground motif featured colourful healthy coral juxtaposed with a black background with bleached coral representing the mourning of the death of the coral reefs. Fragile Ocean led to Goddess of the Sea where the mermaids are powerful guardians protecting the oceans from Man who is destroying the biggest ecosystem and biodiversity.
It is a collection of contrasts representing contrasts in gender: masculine cavalry twill and denim contrast with feminine lace, sheer cotton, black sheer organza, sequins and feminine prints on satin and cotton drill. Masculine colours are all set for monochrome colour palette of black, white, navy and metallic silver in contrast with feminine pastel greens, pinks and blues. Masculine prints include seagulls and anchors, and motifs inspired by Royal Navy insignia. Feminine prints are those from Fragile Ocean. A conversational print tells the story of the Goddess of the Sea by featuring a mermaid embracing a sailor to lure him to his death from his sailing ship. Masculine prints are hand-worked in contrast with feminine digital prints. Masculine shapes include exaggerated sailor trousers and fitted jackets inspired by Royal Navy uniform in contrast with feminine shapes include flimsy floaty gathers and frills and underwear as outerwear with a bralette and a corset belt. Interesting sailor bows which would be considered feminine in the twenty-first century where considered masculine in the eighteenth century. This contrast of perceptions of gender throughout history to the present day is fascinating.
Although the concept for Goddess of the Sea predated Alexander McQueen’s S/S 2017 collection it shares Sarah Burton’s inspirations: real and mythical creatures, sea gulls, wild and magical coastal landscapes, anchors and shipwrecks. Ralph Lauren’s Modern Icons collection was also a current collection with an iconic style campaign on women’s confidence, ease and timeless style featuring sailor trousers and Royal Navy military jackets. As a student and upcoming designer Catherine’s confidence was increased as she had unknowingly pre-empted the themes and collections of these major fashion houses.
Viktor & Rolf’s Upside Down collection provided inspiration to push boundaries in terms of mixing gender and use underwear (bralettes) as outerwear. Altuzarra inspired the using of a monochrome colour palette with metallic silver; this linked to the mermaid’s scales. Gabriele Colangelo’s feminine textures which mixed sheer fabrics with silver metallic also influenced Goddess of the Sea.
Primary research included visits to the Cutty Sark, the National Maritime Museum, the Royal Observatory to find inspiration from historical garments from the eighteenth century focusing on the royal Navy uniforms, observing the styles, construction details and ranks of the officers and sailors. The collection combined influences from different ranks. The Cutty Sark was a significant inspiration in terms of appreciating the mind-set and historical atmosphere, the textures, masculine shapes, materials. Triangular and circular shapes from the Cutty Sark – sails, rigging, portholes, gun-holes inspired prints and construction details for the garments such triangular godets on sailor trousers and breeches and circular decorative seams on jackets.
Primary research at the London Sea Life Aquarium influenced designs for the coral reef prints along with Ernest Heckel’s work. The V&A had a large exhibition of eighteenth century uniforms and dress but also significant inspiration was taken from the Undressed exhibition that showed men’s and women’s underwear from the eighteenth century to the present day looking at how underwear has influenced garment designs using underwear as outerwear. This inspired the inclusion of a lingerie bralette in feminine fabrics and also corset belts. This revealed more skin to make the collection more seductive and tie in with the mermaid luring the sailors.
A range of accessories and designed textiles support the Goddess of the Sea final collection. Six silk modal scarves with eyelash fringing complement the six outfits and were similarly inspired by the sea. The designs include sailor stripes with nautical ropes mixed with motifs of coral and silhouettes of sea creatures. The scarves enhance the feminine side of the collection. This textile collection showcases Catherine’s versatility and variety of skills within the fashion industry.