Chapter IV…The Ballerina

‘Pure theatre, inspired by ancient fairytales and Arthur Rackham illustrations’

The look

Moulded, sculptured, decaying and burnt leather Torso.

Structured and boned leather crinoline, dyed and burnished in shades of antique ivory and rich brown.

The rose embroidered antique silks and carved leather flowers fall and drape over the crinoline framework to create a cascade of shadows, the silk butterflies fluttering across the decaying torso.

Creating the Ballerina

The crinoline is constructed from more than 70 metres of leather strips. Each leather strip is cut and dyed by hand, lined with luxurious black metallic lining, edge stitched, polished and surface burnished in 3 shades of rich brown. More than 50 metres of steel boning is concealed in the framework to create the elongated oval shape. The crinoline is finished with 7 vertical leather straps in a ‘lattice’ design hole-punch work – all by hand of course!

The embroidery consists of free-drawn interpretations of rose flowers across 15 metres of silk chiffon. There is no pattern to trace over just drawing freely with the machine needle as you would with a pen on paper. The embroidered lengths are hand dyed to achieve an antique ivory shade. All the floral patterns on the embroidery are then cut by hand with small snips. The lengths are then draped and tied in over the crinoline creating a pallid complexion in contrast to the dark burnished leather, adding a softer layer to the dominating silhouette.

The draped silks on the crinoline are held in place by 20 moulded leather hand carved flowers in multiple shades of burnished brown. The open cut work of the silk over the leather crinoline creates the effect of layers of ruffled petticoats falling gracefully over traditional caged underskirts.

The bustier constructed and dyed by hand, is lined with luxurious black metallic leather, moulded and burnt into shape to create the antiqued sculptured form. Delicate embroidered silk butterflies are ‘scattered’ over the decaying leather torso.

It took some 300 hours at our studio to complete.

The History of the Design

The original concept for the Ballerina came from interiors and display pieces we created for our London showroom and studio. The crinoline with its draped silks started life as a large chandelier and lamp shade, the shadows created by the embroidered silks projecting onto the walls and ceiling. The burnt leather torso originated as a display piece, a stand alone hanging sculpture, like a piece of buried treasure unearthed and decaying from the catacombs of the Capuchin monks of Palermo.

Creating this look in such volume & scale was inspired by Paul Seville’s asymmetrical dress for Alexander McQueen ‘What a merry go round’ in 2001, we were recently reminded of this piece when it was on display at Savage Beauty exhibition at the V&A.

Mood & Emotion

We have always seen the Ballerina like an exhibit in a museum, something you walk around and view in silence and stare at in wonderment, a fantasy piece! Most of our designs we think about in fashion terms but not this piece, this we see as a stand alone creation, we don’t necessarily see a form or body in it, just a work of art, collectable and timeless!


From the Cocteau Twins to This Mortal Coil & ‘Song to a Siren’ or Silence & the tinkling of fairies!

Chapters I, II, III, V, VI