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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.


My mentor

In our third year, each student is given a specific Mentor by our tutors as part of our Personal Development Plan. It meant we had to contact our Mentor who will be there for  guidance and support  during the process. I believe it is very vital as a new designer to have a mentor because it is essential that we know someone who can briefly tell us what one can expect after being a graduate although the lady from Paul Denicci who was meant to be my mentor with supporting and helping me through the process of my FMP never relied to my emails so I decided to find my own mentor – a designer from my work as currently I am working at a bridal shop called Abigail’s collection the Grooms room located in Colchester where I work as a bridal  consultant and as an assistant in men’s wear with the Grooms room .

At Abigail’s collection we work very closely with bridal designer Lillian West and it would be my dream to become apart of their  design team so I was encouraged to email the head designer Tony Mental and  to my surprise me emailed me back straight away with a very long and inspirational,  influencing email about his Role at Lillian west -being head designer of Justin Alexander ,Sincerity and Lillian West Bridal and how he got there with hard work and experience, He emailed about some of his previous jobs, experiences and educational which was so inspiring . Tony told me he had been head designer in his present position for 13 years which is purely bridal but that was perfect for me as one day I would love to be working in a designer team for bridal or  women’s wear.

He told he that he found it really hard to get a job straight out of his degree as he didn’t  have enough skills or any real experience – which is why work experience and placements are so important and which is why  I’m am so glad that I have been able to have the opportunity of work experiment and placements over the years.

”    I think many colleges don’t actually prepare students for the real life and skills of a job in fashion, I would say that doing work placements is a great way to see how the fashion business really works, but also what worked for me was to do a MA. ”

I found it really inspirational learning about his education and how he studied at the Royal collage of art , He was so helpful when it came to advice about further education for myself and talking about graduate jobs he also gave me amazing advice on the fashion /bridal industry , in how he thinks its better to be specialised and how it is better to be knowledgeable at one small area than to be skilled in many areas – just have one specific skill your good at and enjoy which I found surprising as we are always taught to have a wide variety of skills . But Tony advised its better to have very specific skills and design knowledge needed in one area but this is rarely teach  at collages. He quoted  its always better to have more skills in a niche area , as you are more than likely going to find that job and plus niche jobs pay better.

He told me how he learnt a lot by doing practical work placements and I spent months working for M&S in the factory which they then had in the UK making Bras (sadly a lot of this production is now in asia) but actually learning how production works and how things are made, taught him so much about design, fit, practicality.

he told me that he thinks me  working in a Bridal shop will teach me a lot about the  dresses, but he told me to learn as much as possible from the seamstresses about how the dresses are constructed

” If you know how a dress is made then you can design it better. you should also make your own clothes, if you start learning about flattering your own body, and what feels good to wear, you will also start understanding future clients. One thing students and many designers often forget is the person who will buy the product, most women do not have model proportions and think about your designs in relation to making and average 5 foot 4 size 14 girl feel beautiful.” – which is so true as you need designed gowns which will make a lot of body shapes feel confident

“I often visit shops and present the collection in store, and try them on real brides. Last weekend I was in Swansea and I had a girl who was 5 foot 2 and about a size 16, she had very little self confidence and was putting herself down, i found the perfect dress with lines to flatter her shape, which was nothing like she had believed she could wear, and she cried with happiness, because she felt beautiful.” which is what we get a lot at Abigail’s collection you need a dress that will make a women feel beautiful and confident which you do by learning the construction of a dress in the way its going to fit a women with the seam mines and proportions that will improve a body and which ones to detract.

He ended the email by saying if you are passionate about bridal or evening women’s wear design you just need to really learn as many skills as possible and he gave me a list of what he would expect from an assistant :, both hand sewing and machine, I would want someone with min basic sewing skills.
2.eager to learn. someone who can take feedback and make it work.
3.fabric knowledge, you need to know what different fabrics are and how they move and sew.
4.drawing skills, able to show me what they mean through a detailed or quick sketch. be able to do drawings which would be clear for a pattern cutter to understand.
5.taste and style, it sounds simple, but know what you like and why.
6.knowledge of the past of fashion, read up, understand what has brought us where we are today. know your designers and what they did or do.
7. for bridal its all about decoration, so know about beading, different laces, embroidery.
8.personality/Charm, you need to be able to talk to people on sales events, dealing with customers and brides as well as people in the factories etc.
9.reliability, be on time, be energetic and enthusiastic, there is loads of traveling and long days, it is a lot tougher than you might imagine.
10. ability for abstract thinking, ie take a mood or several inspirations and mix them together to create something new.
11. computer skills, excel, photoshop, always useful.







Goddess of the Sea – Final Major project (FMP)

Romantic Seduction , Naturalism and beauty ….

My final major project will explore a fictional myth focusing on the tales and beliefs of the mythical sea creature from the 18th century ,while carrying on my pre-collection’s theme of finding inspiration from under the sea focusing on coral reefs and all their natural wanders ,celebrating beauty as well as the fragile biodiversity of life . My brief will also be celebrating feminine empowerment using the female form to lure sailors to their death. The contrasts will consist of juxtaposing feminine beauty with soft construction details mixed with masculine elements of structured tailoring to resemble the 18th century sailors and royal navy men’s uniforms – women wearing masculine clothing presenting power dressing, mixing historical and contemporary designs together in my collection that will be six outfits . The garments will be focused on inspiration from romantic seduction and the contrasts in men’s and women’s wear  coming together by juxtaposing fabrics ,construction details ,embellishment, prints and an successful colour palette . my final collection will contain elements of women’s wear and men’s wear to design a fashion line up for a luxury women’s collection for A/W 2018.

Aims –

  • Design a women’s collection made up of six outfits
  • Textile designs/prints using in my fashion collection using digital prints as well as hand worked – I want to use a few of my digital prints from pre-collection to link the two briefs together as well as managing my time successfully and professional
  • new hand worked textiles
  • Embellishment
  • professional portfolio
  • Primary and secondary research
  • a strong colour palette
  • Tailoring and advanced pattern cutting
  • constructing lingerie (using underwear and outer wear)

research –

I plan to do in depth secondary and primary research by visiting the cutty sark , the national maritime museum and the royal observatory to find historical garment inspiration from the 18th century focusing on the royal navy uniforms . I will be observing the styles and the construction as well as ranking orders. I want to include the designs in my collection mixing structured ,tailoring into feminine designs. The visit to the cutty sark will be the biggest inspiration for me -looking at textures and masculine shapes as well as getting in the mind set of a sailor . I will be taking inspirational ,primary photographs of nautical rope ,clips ,rigging and sails . I want to also sketch what inspired from the cutty sark focusing on motif ideas for designs in my textile collections.

For more primary research I will be visiting London’s sea life aquarium for under the sea / coral reef  inspiration with colour , shapes , textures and the mood for my feminine textile collection – adding a accessorises collection of feminine scarves.

The V and A also has lots of inspirational 18th century dress in a large exhibition but I have already been heavily inspired by their undressed exhibition which I have already visited – it show cases mens and womens underwear from the 18th century to present day looking at how underwear has influenced garment design using underwear as outerwear which inspired me to include lingerie (bralettes) in my collection to make it seductive.

Fashion , textiles , materials and designer inspiration-

The fashion collection will represent beauty and power dressing , showing strong contrasts .I will produce a womenswear collection mixing print designs and fashion construction , pattern cutting.

I am mostly inspired by Alexander McQueen – my fashion icon along side Altuzarra,Victor and rolf,yukio Kobayashi and Gabriele colangelo inspired in how they use colour, texture and print in there collections.

In my fmp I want my fabrics and prints to be contrasting set in mostly a morochrome colour palette with splashes of colour and metallic sliver that brngs a fresh sense of opulence .

for trims and embellishment I will consider lace, tassels ,elasticated elements , beading and sequins aswell as heavy materials such as metal hoops and clips as fastens . materials and fabrics will be sourced independently through investigations of suppliers and independent sellers.

Muse ,brand and customer –

The collection will be a one off high end ready to wear collection for A/W 2018 featuring hand worked techniques of printing and embellishment work  which would be hard to mass product . the collection will have a real air of British heritage with the tailoring and the nautical theme. I want to send my customers to a fantasy world .

my customer would be a young to middle aged women from a middle to high classed background who is hard working and professional with a well paid job . she likes to let her hair down socializing , she is someone who appreciates fashion and likes to be centre of attention , someone who likes to push boundaries . The women I want to dress will enjoy well made ,unique designer brands and likes a thoughtful meaning or story behind a collection – I want my customer to stand out , some one who is confident and independent.

Learning outcomes –

  • In-depth Research and investigations
  • Developing a creative approach towards fashion and textiles
  • Produce a range of material outcomes – material investigations in fabrics, pattern cutting and construction.
  • selecting and refining a textile and fashion collection
  • making contacts
  • finishing a fashion line up of six outfits for the end of year fashion show and new designers .



The Nicole Abbott Award with Sir Paul Smith

Nicole Abbott was a former students who graduated from Colchester institute who worked for Sir Paul for many years as an assistant but Unfortunately, in 2013 she passed away after the long battle with breast cancer. In memory of talented Nicole, our tutor Val Jacobs asked Nicole’s parents if they could create a design award to honour Nicole’s life and I have been so lucky to be apart it  as I have one of the selected few from Colchester school of arts to present their pre-collection in the Nicole Abbott award Exhibition that will be narrowed down to 3 students to show case and present their work to sir Paul smith with a chance of winning an internship beside him .

I felt so privileged that I was one of the selected students as it was such an amazing opportunity and experience, even though I didn’t get to meet Sir Paul I was happy to meet some of his design team who I had to present my work to as well as Nicole’s mum Suzanne who is such a brave and inspirational lady.

For the exhibition I started to do a lot of research into different ways I could represent my work – ideas in ways I could hang my prints to get the  real effect of my designs which I presented on white professional headers -laid out flat to the wall so you could see the full print in detail -along side my portfolio which you can check out on

I wanted my work especially my prints to be the focal point to my display in the exhibition so I kept my space quite minimalistic as for me personally white space in a exhibition is so important – the space around your work is just as important in the way you display your work – keep it simplistic

the three judges to the  competition visited us on 27th of January, 2017, therefore, we had to set up our exhibition in a Hay Gallery a week early as it would allow other fellow students to see the ‘Work in progress’.

we were given a designated space and we had to come up with a  plan in how we would represent our pre-collections  which Is why I think its always great to research in ways I could set up my exhibition space successfully and it gave me an understanding on how I can set my  work up in  New Designer .

Once the exhibition was completed, we were delighted to see a variety of textile and fashion work from everyone. As everyone had their own choice of theme, different levels of work  For instance: Fashion garments, both Digital and Hand printed work along with various textile techniques.

On the day of the exhibition we were called in one by one to talk about our work and to present ourselves . I felt very confident in talking about my work and the inspiration behind it as its a subject that’s very close to my heart and they were very friendly.

I showed the judges – Nicole’s mum and Sir Pauls design team my exhibited work followed by my sketchbook and explained what my work meant and where my inspiration came from, my challenges and the end product.

I was put down to be one of the 3 students to be selected as they said they loved my work  but unfortunately I wasn’t selected as there so many amazing briefs and pre-collections being presented and in fact there were so much amazing work from all the students there were four finalists this time because the judges said they really liked everyone’s work. Surprisingly all textiles outcomes from the room were selected along with one fashion outcome, who I believe were equally deserving. Although I didn’t get selected, I was happy to learn and experience this journey.

Pattern magic -Three -Dimensional form with design lines

In the fashion studio at university , after the work shop with Sato Shingo I wanted to push myself with learning a new advanced technical pattern from my TR pattern magic 2 book to independently construct a three-dimensional fashion design idea for my pre-collection and final major project with using my own designed style lines instead of using darts to fit the body . I wanted my designed style lines to be inspired by shells shapes from my research in my sketchbook -looking at unique ,organic shapes from marine life . My garment design includes using a loose ,lightweight fabric from silk Bureau with my transferred digital print designs for the main part of the bodice and with the style lines I want to use a structured sliver bubble transfer leather .

GH Leathers is a contact I made in my first year of University that products raw by-product materials of leather and fur -which from growing up in the country side on a farm I totally agree with using by-products from animals and natural materials as long as the animal has been killed humanely for its meat and not just for its fur ,if it has been killed for its meat then I believe out of respect its only fair to use the whole animal , as a meat eater and growing up on a farm I know that there is no stopping the process of the meat industy but I am passionate about animals and I feel that if we are going to kill animals for their meat we should respect the traditions of our ancestors where we should be using the whole animal and following the natural order of the food chain rather than causing destruction with un-natural pollution , unfair treatment and fur farms -with animal abuse and global warming which is where the human race is currently standing right now in history. I feel its important to use by-products In my collection even through I have set my brief on raising awareness to environmental issues -but environmental issues are not natural where the food chain and predator vs prey is natural and I want to show this even though I am fighting against the un-natural environmental issues of pollution and global warming to the oceans , I still believe in how the natural world works and in how we should be treating animals in the right way.

I was also inspired to order the sliver bubble transfer leather after researching Billie Jacibina a graduate who won the fashion week residency award for S/S17 collection that was inspired with a under the water theme -creating a story with her collection . I was also inspired by Alexander McQueen’s Plato Atlanis S/S10 collection with the amazing bubble like scale armour as well as mostly being inspired by Oscar Carvallo S/S13 couture collection which was also inspired by the ocean with beautiful garments of leather transfers and sheer tulle. There was one garment that captured me with a dropped waist design-dress with a pink silk tulle skirt appearing out the bottom of a structured bodice.

Image result for Oscar Carvallo S/S13
I experimented making a toile design out of calico and black sheer to represent a contrast in the bodice and the style lines. For my toile i first drew out a draft pattern from tracing around a dress block, drawing only down to the hip line making it into a dropped waist inspired by Oscar Carbalo ,then i applied a 1cm seam allowance all the way round the pattern apart from the arms as i wasn’t adding sleeves , i marked in the centre front and back and marking in the bust , waist line with darts.
Next i cut and pinned the paper draft to my light weight calico and cut out the dropped waist bodice in fabric , then on the sewing machines i closed my darts to make the bodice follow the curves of the body . Once finished sewing in my darts i finished the bodice by sewing the front and back right sides together at the shoulders and side seams – i only constructed half a bodice to get an idea of how to construct the pattern for my final design.
when i was finished sewing the half bodice ,i then pinned to a mannequin where i applied my pencil drawn style lines inspired by the organic shell shapes from my sketchbook ,while it was on a human figure which i preferred rather than drawing a flat pattern where you have to imagine how its going to look on a figure . I feel with this technique you can get a real idea of how the garment will look once constructed on a person which i loved !
i drew in my unique style lines regardless to the positioning of the darts and i made sure i added notches front and back of new drawn style line. Once happy i then cut out my style lines ,cutting out each new pattern piece. I found that once cut out they didn’t lie uniformly flat in the fabric like they would if in paper but i loved having the courage and control to cut straight into my fabric just like Alexander McQueen did for his Plato Atlantic collection  where he was interested in the concept of hybrid ,where he wanted to juxtaposition fabrics together to see how they would react to one another which is what inspired my design ideas for my collection where i can juxtaposition light weight fabrics with heavy , structured fabrics . Alexander McQueen with his dresses in Plato Atlantic modelled his jersey shift dresses to a mannequin and then started cutting up his tailored pieces and morphed the two together which was very brave and confident , he seemed like he was never afraid of doing anything in fashion which is so inspiring.
Image result for alexander mcqueen plato's atlantis
Image result for alexander mcqueen plato's atlantis
Related image
To make the fabric styled lines -pattern lay flat for my toile i had a few options -one where i could makes folds in the pattern -pinned with little slits on either side or little darts or when sewing i could make little pleats /ruching which would look quite pretty on the bust . I followed the technique of folding and making little slits in most of them apart from on the bust where i wanted to experiment with making ruching when sewing that would work in the black sheer but not in leather.
Then i pinned the fabric pattern -style lines in calico to my black sheer fabric ,added a 1cm seam allowance and cut out each pattern while remembering to snip into the notches.
The hard part of this pattern was now laying the main bodice flat and pinning to more calico fabric when the style lines where cut out, but once layered and pinned i could cut out a new bodice with a 1cm seam allowance all over and then i could start pinning and stitching the black style lines back into the main calico bodice using the mountain and valley sewing technique . I feel very proud and happy with the outcome and want to definitely use the pattern again in my Final Major Project.
Photos to come 🙂

My pre-collection fabrics and Monochrome colour palette -skirt collection

The collection/ monochrome colour palette is inspired by Darwin’s Barnacles and Jean -Charles Chenu Illustrations of Conus Magus and Imbricaria black and white patterned shells from a book called Natural Histories Opulents Oceans , the fabrics like the shells show lots of texture and mixes contrast and structure with elegance . I was inspired to include the beautiful sliver bubble transfer leather from GH leathers inspired by researching mother of pearl that forms the shells of molluscs and designers such as Billie Jacobina from fashion scout -classed as one to watch with her collection , she was inspired by Alice in wonderland to create her own story of a little lost mermaid who finds a underwater paradise where she mixes bright colours , sequins ,faux fur and metallic inspired by the Ocean and its many secret wanders of life.

Post Graduate Inspiration

When I came into Colchester school of arts University a few years ago for a third years final fashion exhibition I was really inspired by the amount of work and the quality as well as the beautiful garment collections which is what inspired me to apply for Colchester school of arts University as a first choice and the fact we got the chance to study both fashion and textiles . When I came to the exhibition a few years ago I picked up some business /post cards  -both being women’s wear collections including print designs by Laura Douglas and Jade-Marie Marchant . I found it really interesting that I decided to pick up just them two cards as one collection is very bright with graphic prints and motifs where the other collection was more subtle and elegant with sheer fabrics , lazar cutting with a monochrome colour palette. I found it inspirational looking  back at the business /post cards as my pre-collection final line up is looking like a mixture of theses two collections with bright motifs and prints inspired by coral reefs and then more subtle , monochrome fabrics mixing structure and elegance in my collection using leather and sheer fabrics like Laura Douglas .

Theses business cards have also inspired design ideas for my own card for the next semester of the final major project (FMP) -to be professional and to get my self noticed in the fashion industry as well as being able to swap and gain contacts . Your business card gives off a first impression of your brand , style and your work so you need to make it memorable so that it will make people pick up your card like I did with Laura Douglas and Jade-Marie Marchant . My goal is to make an memorable collection for the pre-collection and Final Major project . Putting mu all into it with everything I have learnt in the last few years and to give a professional , creative and hard working first impression at new designers.