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Fashion inspired by fear

The result is an exquisite, perhaps supernatural, marriage of felt fabric, satin linings, wool years and several dyes into frighteningly surreal, but wearable garments.

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Designer of the five-piece collection Deep Sea Horror, Allana Mae Nicolas. / photographs courtesy of allana mae nicolas

Her persistent nightmares of the deep sea and the horrors that lurk within — all caused by overwhelming feelings of stress and anxiety — were the catalysts for her latest fashion collection.

Deep Sea Horror, the five-piece collection of Allana Mae Nicolas, revolves around thalassophobia, or the fear of huge bodies of water — its size and vastness with no land in sight and no safety net to cling onto, its dark bottomless pit that could suck one in at any second, its undulating, uncontrollable waves that have the power to toss around helpless ships and, of course, all the unknowable creatures deep within.

This emotion manifested into physical form through a mood board that depicted a drowning girl — a metaphor that represented Allana herself. “I keep all unwanted things kept beneath the dark, seemingly endless, hidden from the naked eye,” she confessed.

Lobster’s claw is interpreted as a silhouette for the jacket and the jellyfish tentacles were applied to the skirt.

Allana went on a self-discovery as she researched on the meanings of dreams — where she unearthed her fear of uncertainty. “It pulled me down, yet pushed me up to strive and learn even further,” the Fashion Design and Merchandising (FDM) alumna of the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde (DLS-CSB) expressed.

The otherworldly ensembles in the series took shape in the form of bizarre and offbeat underwater creatures inspired by pectoral fins of stingrays, tentacles of octopuses, claws of lobsters and silhouettes and textures of coral reefs.

Inspired by the coral reefs and tentacles as an ornament on top.

She went through a rigorous process to study and grasp the multitude of techniques to manipulate the available materials. The felt base was sewed using a machine. However, she
hand-stitched 60 percent of the details.

It was not an easy undertaking — it wasn’t just a simple drape and pattern-making exercise — for she had to create surfaces through heat manipulation; boiled elongated textiles with bottle caps; utilized crochet techniques for several minute characteristics and bulked up her creations with cotton fiberfill. She even used a heat gun in an unconventional way — to mimic the surface of a stonefish, the world’s most venomous fish.

The moodboard depicts a drowning girl.

“It took several trial and error experiments to achieve my vision of my garments,” Allana revealed.

The result is an exquisite, perhaps supernatural, marriage of felt fabric, satin linings, wool years and several dyes into frighteningly surreal, but wearable garments.

“I allowed myself to explore and learn despite fear and doubt. That is why I wanted my first ever creation to be wearable art — to show that I don’t limit myself,” she expressed.

“I wanted to inspire others that, like the vastness of the sea, they must explore the limitless possibilities, despite the fear of what its depths could possibly store. They must swim even deeper in order to learn,” she said. “I believe that it’s all part of the voyage of self-discovery.”

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