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High Seas - The Inspiration

“There is, one knows not what sweet mystery about this sea, whose gently awful stirrings seem to speak of some hidden soul beneath...” Herman Melville. 

We are so excited that the High Seas collection is nearly with us. As with all our collections, we take inspiration from the nostalgia of the literary or historical past and Herman Melville’s Moby Dick was a primary source of inspiration for us this time. If you’re unfamiliar with the story, it’s a tale of sailor Ishmael and the obsessive quest of his sea captain Ahab, seeking revenge against our favourite white whale (and the namesake of one of our jackets!) Melville himself worked as a crew member on a merchant ship and, like his characters, was no stranger to the mystery and danger of the sea. On only his second voyage, he abandoned his whaling ship and escaped capture from a local tribe of cannibals.

Our interest in using Melville’s novel as inspiration sparked from the fact that Olivia’s own great-grandfather fought in the navy during the Second World War. When it ended, he would make ships in bottles for her grandmother and sisters – a memory of his time at sea. Her other great-grandfather took his inspiration from similar places, winning numerous awards for his painting of a clipper ship. At Olivia Annabelle, it’s important for us to have personal connections to the themes of our capsule collections, and in the photos below you can see that we feature both of these items of family history in our shoot.

Seafaring Dress in Admiral Print

Seafaring Dress in Admiral Print

Moby Jacket in Tempest Print

Moby Jacket in Tempest Print

This latest AW collection aims to capture both the wild and unpredictable nature of the sea, as well as all the mysteries that surround it. Statement collars and tailored jackets are reminiscent of sea uniforms, while tales of shipwrecks, sirens and sea beasts are embedded in the soft cotton silhouettes using hand illustrated prints and embroideries.

Herman Blouse & Smuggler Trousers in Siren Print

Herman Blouse & Smuggler Trousers in Siren Print

Defoe Embroidered Siren Denim Jacket & Jeans

Defoe Embroidered Siren Denim Jacket & Jeans

One of the defining prints of the collection is the emblem of the siren and sailor, who appear to be in love but who actually encapsulate the darker and more sinister undercurrent to our theme. It is thought that the word “Siren” could come from the Greek “seira” meaning rope and “eiro” meaning binder or entangler. In other words, something that uses song to bind or entangle another. We are fascinated by the stories behind the Greek myths and, in Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus ties himself to the mast of his ship in order to resist the Sirens’ beautiful singing and to prevent his ship becoming shipwrecked on their rocks. Through these two figureheads we contrast love with death, keen to convey the idea that not everything is as it first seems…

John William Waterhouse - Ulysses And The Sirens 1891

John William Waterhouse - Ulysses And The Sirens 1891

While we use a number of different prints across our High Seas collection, and each piece is unique in its own way, all are tied together by the same stories, themes, and inspirations. For instance, while the Herman blouse in Voyager print uses the rope motif to encase imagery of the British coastline, the Neptune dress in Atlantis print hides a shipwreck within its folds, alongside shells, seaweed and sirens. In short, our High Seas collection is a love letter to the sea and everything within it, and we hope you all enjoy wearing it, as much as we loved designing it!

Neptune Dress in Atlantis Print

Neptune Dress in Atlantis Print

Herman Blouse in Voyager Print

Herman Blouse in Voyager Print

Designer’s Picks

Olivia - Moby Jacket in Tempest Print

“It’s a heritage naval inspired piece that has been reinvented for modern-day wear with the Tempest Print. Perfect for elevating a casual look.”

Hattie - Neptune Dress in Atlantis Print

“It’s subtle and easy to wear, but at the same time the intricate designs require you to look closer to fully appreciate it.”