I was recently asked what inspires me. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t utterly compelled by art and design, by travel and adventure. But beyond that, I’m most inspired by women – free-spirited, wonderfully irreverent, deeply curious women. They may live (or have lived) in a real-life Venetian palazzo (namely Peggy Guggenheim, upon whom I wax lyrical here) or in the pages of novels. And indeed, for Mondo’s latest edit – aptly entitled The Heroine Collection – I dove into the stories of my favourite fictional characters.
From Toni Morrison’s free-spirited Sula to the fiercely resilient Celie in Alice Walker’s The Color Purple, the power of these protagonists lies in their capacity to challenge the status quo, to dream big, and to pursue freedom with relentless zeal – and more often than not, acerbic wit. The Heroine Collection is inspired by bohemians, rebels and dreamers in literature, each piece architected with its namesake in mind. Here, I muse upon three fictional protagonists who featured prominently on my moodboard.
Sula from Toni Morrison’s In Sula
Toni Morrison’s 1973 coming-of-age novel tells the story of Sula, a woman navigating her own community – isolated by the racism of the wider world – with unrelenting strength. It is a tale of female friendship, of motherhood, and of strength against all odds. Sula is at once spirited and vulnerable, magnetic and dangerous. It’s this complexity that makes her jump out of the page in multi-dimension, and why I decided to name a piece in her honour. The Sula skirt.
Jo from Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women
When concepting The Heroine Collection, I knew there had to be a piece named after Little Women's unforgettable Jo March. An outspoken bookworm who’s admonished for her ‘boyish tricks’ and liberal use of slang, Jo was a revolutionary character in the world of didactic 19th-century literature – and that’s why I adore her. Well that, and her dedication to books (in fact, it is said that Louisa May Alcott based Jo on herself). Disappointed that she can’t fight in the Civil War alongside her father, she throws herself into reading and writing, finding freedom through art. I also love that Jo is described as having ‘a flyaway look to her clothes’, which inspired the suitably relaxed silhouette of our linen Jo blouse.
Celie from Alice Walker’s The Color Purple
In The Color Purple, protagonist Celie emancipates herself from patriarchal oppression, finding independence and enlightenment. Just as Little Women’s Jo finds freedom in books, the written word plays an important role in Celie’s evolution; she expresses her true desires in the form of letters. As well as being one of my favourite books, The Color Purple was a seminal work, making its author, Alice Walker, the first Black woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. It seemed only right I immortalise its protagonist in Mondo’s Heroine collection, in the form of the Celie dress.