‘Foam to wheat, a glitter of seas.’
Ariel, Sylvia Plath
Ariel is arguably one of Sylvia Plath’s most provocative, contentious poems – a rather impressive achievement given Plath’s preferred subject matter. Its drama resides in its economy, formed completely at one with its substance, ephemeral and visceral all at once.
The Serpent and the Swan’s Autumn/Winter 2013 collection, ‘Night Seas’ is a similar elegiac performed in flannel, gossamer and organza.
United by a deliciously morbid fascination with the anatomy of creatures and their mystical incarnations, the creative tour de force behind the brand – sisters Hayley and Lauri Smith transform the characteristics of the ocean not through colors, but in texture. Plath’s ‘substanceless blue’ becomes a cloudy slip while ‘black sweet blood mouthfuls’ drip down a soft, shift dress and fisherman’s knit.
The design aesthetic echoes that of the previous collection, adhering to the sisters’ successful and wonderful juxtaposition of earth and ethereal in their pieces. One of their favorite materials to work with is leather. ‘It comes in so many different textures, weights and colors… we love the raw nature of it.’ Lauri, previously a props designer, continues to cast bronze moulds, which have become the Serpent and the Swan’s signature buttons, hardware and jewelry. ‘We also love working with naturally found animal bone, different raw metals and coppers, which can be seen in our sculptures and jewelry collections.’ Expect a marriage of quartz crystal and raw silk, sheer organza and whalebone.
When asked by Couturing as to which animal they each best represent, the sisters laugh and explain that the name had nothing to do with their personalities as opposed to the animal’s symbolic references. Hayley admits that she is ‘probably more the serpent than the swan, as serpents/snakes symbolically represent change and transition as they shed their skin every couple of months and I tend to get over things a little too quickly.’ Lauri adds: ‘I guess we both have swan and serpent days but I would say I tend to be more reserved than Hayley so I’ll go for the swan!’
‘There is no better designer than nature.’
It is no surprise that the sisters agree. ‘Nature is exactly where we draw all our inspiration from – whether its from the outer – animals, plants, universe, or inner- anatomy, nerve systems, bone connections. When we are stuck we generally go for a walk in nature or go to the museum which always helps and sparks many concepts.’
Although they differ on where the most magical place in the world is (Hayley emphasizes ‘AFRICA’ while Lauri cites ‘Cinque Terra in Italy, it’s a little slice of heaven!’), the sisters unanimously agree that the whale is their favorite sea creature because ‘they represent great strength, harmony and they just look so damn peaceful!’
When conceptualizing the collection, they ‘tend to be thinking about the same idea before even discussing it then we know we are on the right track with it! Usually it’s more of an abstract thought, a particular animal/ insect or even just a texture of color.’
In ‘Night Seas’, Hayley was fascinated by how the environment can be so eerie yet serene. ‘I imagined fishermen out there at night when they battle the most brutal storm, and then rewarded with a sky full or stars and stillness, or when you submerged and a sense of calm washes over you.’
The sisters confide to Couturing their favorite pieces in the current collection. Lauri chooses: “ ‘Luna’, our organza shirt with a little moon stamped out of the leather collar. Subtle, special details are always part of our collection”, while Hayley ops for “our ‘Voyage’ oversized jacket with contrast leather and zip paneling. It’s the perfect cut, length and fabric for everyday of winter!’