Caroline Z.

Behind the Scenes: Inspiration

Caroline ElenowitzComment

I often think that inspiration is a tricky thing to use properly. You never want to create something that is too on the nose, that seems like a costume or a faint imitation of something else. "Inspiration" can can also seem pretentious and forced, a needlessly overwrought justification for something that really should speak for itself. At certain times during this design process, I questioned whether it was even necessary to have a specific idea in mind, besides whatever I found aesthetically pleasing. But what I found I needed was a point of inspiration to act as an anchor, pinpointing an emotional response beyond mere aesthetic cohesion.

The Alice Dress - Photo by Tayler Smith

The Alice Dress - Photo by Tayler Smith

wolves.jpg

The original spark of inspiration for this collection came from an unlikely place-- one of my favorite works of young adult fiction, "The Wolves of Willoughby Chase" by Joan Aiken. The story is a somewhat gothic adventure story, centered around two young girl cousins and set in an alternative version of England during the 19th century in which wolves are a significant and dangerous presence in the woods. The particulars of the story aren't important to the collection, though it does involve an evil governess, a shipwreck and of course the threat of wolves lurking in the woods. What made it such a compelling type of inspiration was the intoxicating atmosphere the author evokes: a mixture of powerlessness and determination in a world both cold and threatening that helped me figure out how these dresses should tie together. Plus, of course, the undeniably fairytale nature of the way the story is constructed seemed a natural fit for dresses that you wear on occasions when you dress up and perhaps are a slightly more fantastic version of your ordinary self.

Albrecht Durer, The Four Angels of Death, 1496-1498

Albrecht Durer, The Four Angels of Death, 1496-1498

The look of woodblock prints (or woodcuts) was another significant source of inspiration that led me down the path of using laser cutting-- something I had never previously thought of doing. Because laser cutting is controlled by a computer program, theoretically it seems like it would produce designs mathematical, precise and geometric. What I did end of creating was organic and romantic in appearance, but precise and controlled in practice, a perfect combination for my mood and my tastes. Just because something uses technology doesn't mean it can't also be lyrical. In fact, in 15th century Europe, woodcuts were the latest technology and formed part of an explosion of printed matter that was much more widely available-- it's only fitting that laser cutting fit in this honorable tradition (though of course woodcuts were made much earlier in China).

I hope this gives you a little glimpse into my process, though of course there are still many other little details of how these pieces came to be. I'm always happy to answer any questions about any of my creations!