Monday, 30 July 2012

Baartmans & Siegel 'Cuban Crab Catchers' SS13

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"We wanted the SS13 collection to feel romantic, effortless and to take you on a journey," purrs Amber Siegel as she stands in the label's PR showroom and reflects on Baartmans and Siegel's on schedule debut. From the moment we excitedly showcased the degree collections of the Dutch/English design halves that make up the label we knew we had discovered a couple of gems. Self described as modern-traditionalists, Wouter Baartmans and Amber Siegel’s work focuses on beautiful fabrics that seduce, and shapes that are accessible yet distinctive. In a few short seasons the talented pair have developed a signature of innovative, refined menswear that balances wearability with a heightened luxury and irresistible tactility. Their designs are made to be worn, stroked and loved. Building on this success and in front of the eager audience of London Collections: Men, the duo delivered a sumptuous presentation that had us all daydreaming of beach holiday. Rather than merely reminisce about my summers spent on the golden sands of Margate aimlessly searching in vain for the smallest of crabs as they lurked in the pool, Baartmans and Siegel take my outstretched hand and whisk me off across the Atlantic to watch the (tongue twist worthy) Cuban Crab Catchers in action. Here Siegel introduces the collection as we reach out to play with the crustaceans and revel in the subtle beauty of faded glory...

"We really enjoyed the recent Autumn/Winter collection because it was dark and textural but we wanted to completely change for this Spring/Summer and to have fun with new fabrics, we really pushed it. We were watching a documentary on Cuban crabs who cross from one side of the island to the other and we were inspired by this blanket of movement captured on the show. A journey of thousands of crustaceans shelled in blue, pink and coral and just so tropical. We were then drawn in to Cuban marine culture, their fishing styles and then on to the nostalgic faded Miami feel of Cuba and the countries links with the work of Hemingway. We were keen on marrying the relaxed atmosphere of the island with the nostalgic hues and colours, mixed cultural influences and retro styles. Working away in our studio on Mare Street we daydreamed of being transported to the Deco Raleigh Hotel in Miami Beach or room 511 of Hotel Ambos Mundos in Havana where Hemingway stayed in the 1930s. 

We really like the idea of faded glory whilst still creating something that is playful and vibrant. Along with the palette, this is probably best seen in our use of the reverse side of skins which creates a softer effect. There's a lot of texture with snake, crocodile, jacquard, abstract leopard print. Elsewhere, we stayed true to theme throughout for example we have scalloped knitwear, coral and ocean scene prints and the buttons are Bakelite to keep that 50s feel. Looking at the collection again now, it's clear that ultimately we want a holiday but unfortunately the closest we got to Cuba was the documentary."

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My own shots from the presentation and a few detail shots alongside the official look book by Simon Armstrong.

"This season we wanted it to feel frivolous, playful and to express a sense of freedom in every sense," Siegel states as she bounces from piece to piece on the collection rail. "Given that we were part of the new platform of London Collections: Men we were keen on showing something that was equally as fresh." Fresh it most certainly is. Subtle yet complex, muted yet full of colour and life, boundary pushing yet wearable. Just looking over the above array of shots my nostrils are filled with sea air and my limbs are longing to jump in to a beachside pool in Miami. Unsurprisingly, I'm not the only one who fell for the charms of this season as Siegel explains; "Obviously this was our first time on schedule and we were unsure how we'd be received but we were blown away. The format worked really well because you could see the texture, from the knitwear to the broderie anglaise. On a quick flash of a catwalk some of the details may have been lost but the presentation enabled people to take a long and close look." I love a considered presentation format that allows time to really digest the designs and Baartmans and Siegel delivered a collection that had me reaching for my net and dreaming about a holiday.

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