Inspiration for my latest capsule collection with Nour & the Merchant began with the phrase “pretty but deadly.” I was reading a lot of folktales and stories about the fae which embody that dichotomy well; the fae are often described as beautiful and alluring, but also incredibly dangerous. Humans were always tempted into dire straits by magical beings—sirens luring men beneath the waves, fairy songs making mortals dance until death, etc. I wanted to design a collection of clothing that celebrated some of the beautiful elements in the natural and magical world that appeal to our eye but also pose a threat to our lives. Something beautiful with a nod to the deadly and dangerous, clothes for women who like feminine, “soft” silhouettes but hide daggers up their sleeves.
We started with the “Poison Garden” dress featuring our custom print of deadly flowers. Foxgloves, lily of the valley, deadly nightshade, and oleander blossoms weave a pattern around a sly wolf, a spade, and scissors. The story of the print is those beautiful, poisonous flowers, but also the gardener how grows and harvests them. A clever, dangerous woman perhaps and who knows what purpose she finds for these poisons. The dress silhouette is romantic and breezy with elastic ruching in the front and back for a flexible fit for a variety of body sizes and silhouettes. I love how the overall design reads as something pretty and romantic, puff sleeves and a flowing skirt, but only those who look a bit closer will see the danger in the design—its beauty as deceptive as the delicate bells on lily of the valley.
Thinking of the woman who grew her own poison garden helped inspire the next dress in the collection: the “Apothecary’s Apron.” This flattering dress in tan linen is reminiscent of a workman’s apron donned in a dusty apothecary where dried herbs hang overhead and a cluttered workbench is filled with mortar and pestle and dozens of tiny bottles with yellowed handwritten labels. We didn’t want to limit this dress to a more literal apron style that needed a dress or blouse underneath to be worn, so it’s cut so perfectly to be worn alone with no other clothes, but it can also be styled with a blouse or dress underneath. A really versatile little dress in a light brown shade perfect for summer, but also wearable into autumn and winter. I also love the contrast between the more durable linen and the satin-sheen of the ribbon detail too, another play in contrasts and dichotomy of elements.
The last piece is a real dream design for me—a printed chemise. The “Mystical Beasts” chemise is cut in a classic billowy chemise silhouette, but in a custom print of magical animals. I love a classic loose blouse or chemise and feature them in so many of my outfits, but I always wanted a printed version to make outfits a wee bit more interesting. I’ve never been able to find any in stores, so being able to design this one with Nour & the Merchant was such a pleasure. It has all the wearability of a classic chemise dress that looks good alone, or belted, or with a corset, or layered under a skirt, or styled with a pinafore, but a bit more spice because of the unique print. The custom print goes back to the “pretty but deadly” inspiration while taking the more magical angle then the other pieces, with thorny roses weaving between a dragon, gryphon, and kelpie. All awe-inspiring magical creatures one would love to see, but incredibly dangerous creatures best avoided. The pattern also manages to weave together all four elements with the roses representing earth, the kelpie a creature of the sea (water), the gryphon symbolizing air, and the dragon, fire. Each figure also has a different heraldic meaning, but I also wanted the print to be fairly neutral in tone to work with a wide variety of garments and span the seasons. I think despite the print it’s such a versatile little dress that you can wear in so many ways.
It’s been so wonderful designing pieces with Nour & the Merchant and I love what we’ve come up with this season. Hopefully it will do well as we always put our heart into these pieces—sometimes I think I’m going to drive Cristina mad with the nitpicking over the print designs and colors or the exact sleeve length! We’ve also created an exclusive discount for the first 50 customers to purchase something from this collection. Use code “poison” to save 10% and you’ll also get a free headscarf in one of our custom prints.