The name of the new beachwear collection “Ashland” by Carolin Lerch from Pelican Avenue is inspired by the island on which it was thought up. The aesthetics of the black ashy beaches of Stromboli caused by the ever erupting vulcano have definitely had a great influence on the designs. Rather than creating a larger collection, Lerch has chosen to narrow her focus down to a few pieces. Great attention has been paid to the details, and particularly, to the material of the clothes, which is something out of the ordinary; the swimsuits are all knitted from a certain kind of highly functional yarn that has been developed particularly for sports and swimwear.
Lerch strives to merge the past and the future into a thought-through yet simple and timeless design. She met with us to tell us a bit more about the making of the collection and its presentation at Paris Fashion Week.
How would you describe the look of your "Ashland" collection?
In a way my aim is not to have a certain look. Creating a look requires a reference to already existing images which, for me, is not really interesting. It also ties you more to a particular time which is something I love to avoid.
Especially with this project, focusing on just a few elaborate products, I'm more interested in zooming in and getting the most out of a piece rather than creating a certain image. Somehow I feel that the swimwear looks like the past and the future at the same time.
What was your main focus while working on it?
I was working with the constraints of the material and the technical challenges. The seamless knitting of the swimwear, as well as the terry weaving of the towel, have quite restricting systems which I had to follow in order to make it work. Also, the display furniture and objects are designed with a basic modular set of tubes.
This is a very different approach than, for instance, digital printing, where basically everything is possible. You end up having quite generic results, and it gets more and more difficult to distinguish your designs from others. At this point, I find it interesting and refreshing to see what direction a more systematic method can lead you to.
Could you please tell us a bit about the presentation of the collection during Paris Fashion Week?
For the Ashland - Paris presentation, dancers interacted with the polished set-up, a scenery that was inspired by an over equipped beach setting, health and wellness centres, the elements of a self-content bourgeoisie. The changing cabin made from string curtains, the useless fitness constructions and sun loungers were almost left unused. There were some slow efforts to exercise, but finally the tension of boredom yields to enjoyment of the heat, the isolation and complacency.
Along with the presentation of the SS14 items, there was a pop-up store with displays, racks and changing rooms designed with the same modular tube system. Individual customers, as well as high fashion boutiques, could buy pieces of the former winter collection first hand. The idea was to present the collection in its entity, creating a complete Pelican Ave environment along with reaching out to individual customers directly.
On your website it says that the swimwear is knitted from “high tech yarn”. Could you explain a bit about this material and its effect?
It is basically a yarn that is developed for sports and swimwear only. It has characteristics like quick drying, great colour fastness, multidimensional stretch for great comfort and remains completely stable in water. Thinking of knitted bathing suits, we tend to think about vintage handmade ill fitting experiments. High tech is pointing out that it is completely functional.
What thoughts have you put behind the colours of the designs?
A lot happened during my stay in Stromboli. It is a tiny island with an active volcano in the South of Italy. The volcano still erupts every ten minutes and the village where we stayed is just below it. Very impressive. All the beaches are black rocks and black sand, also under water. This has a beautiful impact on the colours. All medium to dark shades become darker but also more saturated and, in contrast, lighter colours seem to be overexposed.
Ashland. What is the story behind the name?
It comes from the same place, Stromboli, the very start of the project. I was asked to participate at Vulcano Extravaganza - a programme of events on the island. Imagining an island with black sand from a volcano, I developed a changing cabin for the ashy beaches.
What do you feel has been the greatest challenge of designing this collection?
Concentrating on so few pieces you need to zoom in, make sure that it's perfect on all levels. If you have a wider collection, strengths and weaknesses balance each other out, it's more forgiving. For me, this is the future of small independent designers. The process is closer to how a product or furniture designer works than a fashion brand.
What sort of clientele would you like to see wearing your design?
Someone looking for something unique without being too loud. Appreciating quality and independency in fashion.