Colleen Allen AW16
Photography by Luke Abby
For Chicago-born designer Colleen Allen, a trip to The Natural History Museum of New York is nothing short of nostalgic. With her recently released Autumn 2016 collection, the young designer conceives something completely new from what has been around for millions of years. 230 million, to be exact.
Inspired by nature and paleontology, the collection is both rustic and romantic, offering the wearer a sense of exploration through neutral and warm toned hues. Silver hardware and strong natural fibers are juxtaposed with more long, feminine silhouettes, denoting gender ambiguity. “If I’m choosing a typical masculine fabric choice, I like to put it in a feminine silhouette or the other way around” explains Allen, who typically walks a fine line between shape and materials. “There are a pair of jeans that are actually made out of canvas that you use to stretch a painting. I wanted the clothes to be tough, working against the elements but also have a romantic interaction with nature.”
Her muse of the season, the paleontologist, is a character essential to the collection’s fabrication. Informing every design decision from conception to shooting, the fabric is cut and sewn with his fictional personality and taste in mind. Allen explains that each look she composes “adds another element of his personality.” One of her favorite pieces of the collection, the suede smock, is especially derived from the scientist’s adventurous excavation necessities. “I wouldn’t have made it for anybody or from anybody else,” says Allen, “he needs that working smock to be out in the field.” With wide straps and large pockets, it gives a heavy duty impression while the suede construction makes for an elegant contrast in form.
Although her garments are highly conceptual, Allen feels that her clothes “still make sense in contemporary society” and hopes that anyone who loves dressing is comfortable wearing her clothes in an everyday situation. Currently, the process of cutting and sewing is very intimate between the new designer and her garments. In the future, Allen wants to keep the level of quality and personal interaction with the clothing the same, maintaining an individual dressing experience for the wearer while simultaneously providing men “a wider palette to express themselves.”