Our SS23 collection is inspired by the contemporary artist Mickalene Thomas, whose work celebrates female sexuality, sensuality, beauty and power - portraying real women with their own unique histories and backgrounds.
She beautifully considers how female sensuality is put on show, raising questions around representation and objectification in art.
The New York Times published a fascinating interview with Thomas, ‘Mickalene Thomas Is Reinventing Nudes’ describing Thomas as “a master of the nude form and erotic suggestion”, resonating so joyfully with the ethos of Coco de Mer.
Thomas portrays erotic topics and female sexuality by working with a tantalising colour application, expressive brushwork and collage, creating a confident and sexually charged narrative. She blurs between object and subject, real and imaginary, creating the most beautifully complex pieces.
A brilliant student of art history, Thomas's collage work is inspired by popular art histories and movements, including Impressionism, Cubism, Dada and the Harlem Renaissance to name a few. As a result, Thomas’ work appreciates the nuances between the genres of landscape, still life, and portraiture. As a queer black woman born in Camden, New Jersey, Thomas has been a beacon of hope and progression within the artworld, mirroring cultural issues and contradictions. One of her most notable works is ‘La Lecon d'amour’ (2008), exploring African American social awareness and same-sex sexuality.
Her provocative paintings are reminiscent of the 1970s-style Blaxploitation genre, an ethnic sub-genre of the exploitation film starring black actors in key roles, and originally intended for black urban audiences. The term is a portmanteau of the words "black" and "exploitation", coined in August 1972 by Junius Griffin, the president of the Beverly Hills-Hollywood NAACP branch. The issue with many blaxploitation films was that whilst they realised a burgeoning racial pride, they problematically linked a miasma of competing interests, including Black Power and a lack of female empowerment.
“To see yourself and for others to see you is a form of validation, and I’m interested in that mysterious and mystical line of how we see each other in the world.” Mickalene Thomas
Taking this inspiration, considering the intricacies and looking at Thomas’ palette, the Phenomena collection has been designed with variations of bright, warm hues and accents of gold and metallic bronze to create a palette of intriguing diversity - intrinsically aligning tones and textures to resonate with the myriad of female strengths.
The five designs are Olympia, Mickalene, Clarivel, Athena Rose, and Seraphine Plum - each with their own ornate identity and evoking the richness of female energy. Sumptuous silks, ornate embroideries and breathtaking lace - a captivating collection of the most luxurious components.
To capture the essence of the design, our creative process then took us to vibrant, powerful images of the pieces shot by Claire Rothstein, who collaborated with the enigmatic collage artist Portis Wasp, delivering an incredibly charged, Coco de Mer take on Thomas’ work.
Claire has worked with us on a number of campaigns now, including our 2022 Icons campaign with Helena Christensen, AW22’s Intertwine and our Pleasure Collection. Her imagery is so empowered, full of energy, confidence and glamour. Known by many as Instagram's “King of Collage”, Portis Wasp’s work is unapologetically titillating, with an abundance of life, humour and sexual playfulness.
The combination of this energy and these creatives results in a campaign and an overall collection that is strong, empowered, electrifying and enticing.