During our childhood, Sebastian from the Little Mermaid drilled into us the wonders of the world under the sea. And maybe that’s the reason why so many designers are seen using this awe-inspiring part of nature in their collections? However, fashion and the ocean aren’t too things that are often linked together. So how are they connected?
Inspiration can come from anywhere
Throughout the years, ocean inspired fashion runways have been seen time and time again – a perfect theme for a summer collection. However, the most recent showcase of this was during the Spring 2019 Couture. Each designer who did this theme managed to execute it perfectly while putting their own take on it. However, there were techniques that were used throughout each collection that helped to bring the ocean to the runway.
For example, a very clear way to make the minds eye think of the waters is the colour palette. As you would assume, all of the ocean collections featured an ocean-inspired colour palette with all shades of blue, with some even using coral pink.
A designer that did this extremely well is Zuhair Murad who told a story of travelling through the ocean. He started at the sea floor with blue-black shades, and slowly introduced lighter colours giving the feel of travelling up to the surface – his finale piece eventually being silver.
Materials were also particularly focused on as designers opted for lighter fabrics that gave an underwater feel. Their collections consisted of a lot of tulle, organza, and iridescent, and translucent materials. Many of theme covered in sequins to give the coral and magical water effect. Some even had ruffles which Murad stated was because “They evoke the feel of ripples on water.”
Each collection did a remarkable job recreating the wonders of the ocean, however designers Elie Saab and Zuhair Murad were some of the best that were seen. Each of their pieces were exquisite and truly highlighted the ocean’s beauty.
With all that being said, other designers dedicate their runways to the ocean in a different way.
Flooding the runway?
Back in 1947, a unique and revolutionary runway made its debut – an underwater fashion show! Not much is known about this show, but rare pictures of the event can be found online. Taken by LIFE photographer Sam Shere, the pictures show models completing different activities at the bottom of the ocean. This includes posing, walking and even playing sports – many of them without an oxygen mask!
Similarly, in 2015, designer Jana Nedzvetskaya shocked the world with her underwater fashion show ‘Harmagedon. Psalm 36:29’. The Russian designer aimed to change the way we look at fashion and quite literally forced us to look at it from a new angle.
With the runway surrounded by water and creating a slight island, no one quite expects the models to suddenly fall into the water at the end of their walk. Each wore lose, flowy dresses which perfectly showed the fluidity of the water and achieved the dream-like effect. The magical result was further elevated by the gowns also giving the appearance of a mermaid or elegant fish.
However, not all designers take it quite so far. For example, Demna Gvasalia.
During Paris Fashion Week in 2020, audience members were shocked when they walked into the venue to see that the first few rows were flooded in water. A lights effect was also reflected on the ceiling to fully emerge the audience members in the underwater atmosphere. Although at first glance the outfits have nothing to do with the water, Gvasalia took a different approach in linking them together.
After the 2019/2020 Australian Bushfires, Demna Gvasalia decided to use her runway to show the effects of climate change. Buy why is it so important that the fashion industry knows about environmental issues?
The wonders of the world need protecting
Protecting our planet has become more important now than ever. Every minute of everyday humans contribute to the suffering of the environment – one of the main culprits being fashion. And yet many are unaware of this.
So how is fashion harming the ocean?
Our ocean provides an unmeasurable number of benefits to all those who inhabit Earth. It contributes to factors such as the air, climate, economy, transportation, and food. Unfortunately, these benefits often go unnoticed because we are so accustomed to them being part of our day-to-day life. So, if the ocean does so much to help us, why are we not doing more to protect it?
Did you know that every minute more and more plastic enters our waters equalling to approximately 12.7 million tonnes each year? Many people are unaware that the primary source of this is microplastic – something that comes from clothing.
When cheap materials such as polyester is washed, it sheds little microfibres that contain plastic which then eventually make their way to the ocean. Due to their incredibly small size, marine wildlife (big and small) unknowingly swallow them meaning these tiny microplastics build up in their stomachs.
This then makes its way through the food chain. For example, when a larger animal eats a smaller one, they will also eat the microplastics that the smaller one has already ingested. This will then make its way to us.
It is fashion’s responsibility to make a change to reduce the environmental impact that the industry has. The runway has shown that fashion is connected to a lot more that we think it is, and designers are slowly using this platform to represent this more than ever.
But as Gvasalia showed, there is still a long way to go.