In conjunction with the summer 2015 photoshoot, Stonewash Magazine spoke with each of the graduating Lasell College designers. They shared a few thoughts on inspiration, process, style, and what important lessons they will carry with them as they venture out into the world of fashion. -Editor, David Sano



  Narisha Mercury’s Relentless is based on a unique piece of history. The Dahomey Amazons of West Africa (called Mino or Ahosi in their native Fon language) were an all-woman armed force with origins in the late 1600s. They became a highly trained and organized military unit, and fought valiantly against both neighboring kingdoms and French invaders on behalf of a succession of kings.

Mercury was fascinated when she discovered the history of the Dahomey Amazons. She decided that she would channel their strength, defiance and danger to animate her senior collection, Relentless. “Relentless, it has different meanings to it,” she says. “The meaning that I was going for is: There’s a woman and she won’t take no for an answer – she’s going to keep going until she gets what she wants.”

This sense of purpose finds expression in a bold femininity that does not shrink from often demeaning male gaze of society. “[Relentless] is all about showing the body,” Mercury says. “It’s all about women empowerment. A woman should be able to show off her curves and still feel beautiful and still feel like she’s confident and she has strength and power.”

However, Mercury’s collection is hardly a series of form-fitting military uniforms. It bursts with vital color and complex pattern, proclaiming a joyous, expressive element alongside the fierceness. “That’s basically my aesthetic,” she says, “I just love colors. I’m a very colorful person myself.” The brightness and pattern are a bit much for some, but Mercury is unfazed by their doubts. “Most people would say black is, you know, the color for a designer, but I see fashion totally different as far as that goes. I think fashion should be about colors and patterns and it should be bold and vibrant.”

Mercury’s initial brainstorms are usually visual. “I started out as an artist first, so sketching is really a big part for me,” she says. To assist the process, she will gather support material from the internet and other sources. However, her other early inspiration is somewhat unorthodox. “When I first started this collection, the first thing that I instantly thought about was music,” she recalls. “That’s a huge part to me as far as fashion shows go. The music is what really drives the collection.”

In fact, Mercury’s concepts are born of a ritual that spans the senses. She listens to music and visualizes models reacting to those sounds. “For me it would be the movement of the models,” she says, “and then after that, I think about the clothing.” For Relentless, Mercury wanted something martial, but she decided to avoid popular sounds. “I actually had someone make the music for me. I really wanted to do something that was totally original.”

It may come as a surprise to anyone who has witnessed the bright colors and intricate patterns of Relentless that colors come relatively late in Mercury’s design process. “Colors don’t really affect me until I’m actually shopping for the fabric,” she says matter-of-factly. “I don’t really think about color until that process. While I’m flipping through the fabric at the fabric store that’s when I actually think ‘Hey, this could actually look really good in my collection.’ ”

And it is those colors that make Mercury’s designs somewhat polarizing. “A lot of people would say things, you know ‘This collection is too loud, it’s too colorful, there’s too much pattern going on.’ But honestly, a lot of opinions don’t affect me,” she says. “I’m just going to go ahead and do what I want to do because it makes me happy. And this collection really just describes me as a person… I’m going to be loud, I’m going to be bold, I’m going to be fierce. There’s nothing you can say to make me stop doing what I’m doing, or deter me from where I’m going.”

Mercury would like the wearers of Relentless and her other designs to feel the same bravery, along with a sense of beauty and self-esteem. “I would want them to say, ‘Wow. I feel so sexy and confident in this. This really makes me look beautiful.’ ” -Editor, David Sano






Click photo gallery to view more from Designer Narisha Mercury   Photo Gallery 






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