For her Spring/Summer 2013 collection, London-based fashion designer Corrie Nielsen sought inspiration in how flowers and plants have been depicted throughout the ages by artists (such as contemporary Japanese computer graphics illustrator Makoto Murayama) and in the architectural environments in which botanists have captured world flora for scientific analysis and public displays. Called ‘Florilegium’ (a Latin word that has acquired several meanings over the years but that for Nielsen refers to the primeval definition of gathering of flowers), the collection explored the intricate textures and patterns of petals, sepals, stamen and anthers and recreated them in luxurious fabrics.
Featuring an array of sheer fabrics, silks, and soft leather in ivory, champagne, grey, pinks and blues, the collection included features already familiar to those who have been following Nielsen’s career, namely voluminous rigid peplums, high-neck blouses in metallic silk, rolls of chiffon, pleats that created dynamically fluid forms, and an abundance of bows and tied fabrics on blouses or the top of dresses that balanced shapes when mixed with fitted trousers or billowing skirts. In addition, highly sculptural and dramatic techniques like exaggerated square-shaped shoulders, fabric ribboned at waist level or at the bottom of wide skirts and dresses, and swathes of finely layered silk contributed to an ambitious collection that, once again, illustrated Nielsen’s intention to be known as a couture designer. However, if most garments in the collection confirmed that Nielsen does have what it takes to reach this stage, others posed questions about the legitimacy of this desire.
It is undeniable that Nielsen mastered the late Victorian and yearly Edwardian representations of woman as flower: bulbous shapes and ombré colour gradient in blouses, skirts and a wedding dress with large sculpted petals were undeniably very successful in the way they suggested the natural world. However, Nielsen’s literal interpretations of flora and the spaces to exhibit it, such as a black dress with flattened rolls of fabric that were supposed to depict petals when open, or a representation of the Palm House of Kew Gardens with folds of leaves wrapping around a transparent glass-like bodice, did have a touch of the incongruous about them, and should have been edited out of the runway show.
All in all, this was a beautiful collection that drank from the natural world and paid homage to couturiers such as Cristobal Balenciaga, Vivienne Westwood, and John Galliano by resorting to the structural shapes that they have used and made popular for decades. The Style Examiner does see the merit of Corrie Nielsen’s ambitions in this collection and we look forward to many more collections that will deservedly propel this designer into the realm of haute couture.