Double layer Swan Top And other thoughts

Although on the surface, it seems that the themes that I chose for the three conceptual ranges – Trans+Lucent, Carapace and Cardinal, are entirely unrelated, they do have a common thread running through them. They are all about the ways that we we protect ourselves. From life, from the world around us, from ourselves and from each other.

The main manners of protection that I am exploring at present, although there are many more which may well get brought in over time, are:

Physical (Carapace) through armour or through beauty. How similar we really are to insects. How we modify ourselves to protect our mushy insides from prodding through the creation of astounding outsides.

Magical (Trans+Lucent) Trans+Lucent was originally going to be about religion, particularly great gothic cathedrals protecting delicate stained glass windows and by extension the faith of those within.
At around the time I decided on this concept a number of big international designers simultaneously brought out stained glass window collections. Although what I had planned was very different to what they did, I decided to rather use that initial idea as a springboard to something that I would have more freedom to grow over time.

Symbolism in all its forms and with all its uses has always fascinated me. From creatures painted on cave walls to intricate alchemical diagrams to stark modern logos, symbols have always intergrated into every aspect of our lives.
Every culture throughout history has it’s symbolism. It’s magical tokens, talismans and rituals that keep evil at bay and subtly teach us about our own inner workings. What is especially surprising is exactly how universal and how relevant many of these symbols still are to modern and often secular lives and how many of the meanings are similar across cultures.

Nostalgia (Cardinal) nostalgia is a very modern protection. The first time nostalgia as a movement became obvious was the Victorian craze for medieval era. Never before have we had a worldwide civilization collectively look to the past as the “good ol days” Cardinal looks at how we wear our nostalgia to retain a romance and to deal with a too rapidly changing world and how easily our nostalgia can become dystopia.

Even though each range primarily deals with one theme, there obviously will be overlap such as in the Swan top.
I chose the swan as the first symbol to explore for Trans+Lucent after I randomly opened a marvelous book “The Continuum Encyclopedia of Symbols by Udo Becker ” from our library looking for something else entirely and started reading about the symbolism of swans. They had never been on my list of “possibles” Probably because I always considered them to be a bit naff (although beautiful in real life) and absolutely done to death. The commonly held symbolism of swans as lovers and dying swans in ballets and for some reason, large amounts of young men and occasionally women been turned into swans in Eastern European fairy tales just held no interest for me, but suddenly after reading and doing a fair amount more digging in various other books and online, it all fell into place in the strange way that has been happening since I started on this journey.

I had wanted to start with a bird because birds mean so much to me on so many levels and Swan is my surname so it seemed to be a fortuitous start.

I started to sketch and it just felt right. The curves fell in the right place, the pose and the shape just happened. To be honest, the swan motif was one of the fastest drawings I have ever done and entirely without reference images.


The top itself I had been planning for a while. It is a double layer top which with it’s flat front, wide standing collar and double sleeves evokes the breastplate of a suit of armour, which is contrasted by the sheer fabric used. The finishing touch of the strong swan motif cutting across the front further brings home the armour feel with it becoming the coat of arms that could have been painted or etched onto the armour (or appliqued onto a tunic worn over the armour) to display either the wearer’s family arms or his allegiance.


Swan Symbolism: although there is so much symbolism attached to swans which does vary dramatically from culture to culture, (and a lot of it is about beauty, grace and love)  the part that really struck me is how black and white swans are particularly associated with gender, fluidity and mediation between elements.

The white swan often represents femininity with it’s associated attachments – beauty, the earth, spirituality (and a link with the next world), water and the sun, the black swan with the masculine and it’s associations such as strength, the black sun or moon, the occult and fire.

In alchemy, the Swan is associated with mercury and the spirit and is associated with the mediation between water and fire.

In other mythologies, swans can tell fortunes and portend death. The swan’s egg is often seen as the world egg.

I encourage you to make of it what you want. If it’s just a pretty top, that’s great, or you can choose the symbolism that speaks to you.  For me, the more I read, the more fascinated I become and more relevant to my life the Swan becomes and I attach my own version of these symbols to it. That is the beauty of all this.

What I am exploring with this is, how protective is a suit of armour if you can see and feel your heart straight through it, and through wearing that armour who do you become? My answer to the first half of that question would be “just enough” and I’ll leave you to answer the second.




The New Ranges

Hello Everyone

I do apologize for not getting back to comments on the previous post and for the length of time between posts. Things have been a little fraught for the last month. a lot of changes and pages turning and…stuff. All good after the adjustment period, but lots of stuff!

And anyway,  I do think that the 17th Birthday of Arwen Garmentry is a perfect time to announce this

I am very excited that the changes to our website have predominately been completed (I am still trying to decide whether I should clear out the gallery and only put up new shoots or leave it as is as a virtual museum. What do you think?) and that I have finished uploading our first new product shoot into our online shop. You will have noticed that at the top of our website where it used to say Bridal, Apparel, Evening etc, there is now Corsetry and five new and interesting names. Each of these is a new range and now I can tell you about what each of the new ranges will be.

Firstly, These aren’t short term 3 or 6 month ranges like most designers do, they are more along the lines of long term concept ranges. So each one is a theme and will have a very specific aesthetic, but they will explored over years rather than than in one quick runway show.

Most of the items in each range will be limited editions and there will be a lot of one-off items, but there will be a maximum number of items per range. When that number has been reached, an existing item will be deleted to make way for a new item. Once an item has been deleted, it will never be repeated online or in real life. I am doing away with our previous habit of keeping designs in our repertoire for long periods and for making discontinued items on custom order. This makes for an incredibly boring range, an incredibly bored me endlessly repeating myself, which also creates stagnation in my company since there isn’t very much turnover of designs or room for new designs and for very lackadaisy clientel since they feel they can always order that special item at a later stage (which they seldom do) If you love something, order it! Please order it, and order it quickly. Once it is gone, it is gone.

Now that that is out of the way, Let me start. I’ll go from left to right on our site.



You will have noticed that I have removed the basics from our site. Yes, I do still do them, but per request, rather than keeping stock.  I would rather concentrate on filling our corsetry page with the unique drool-worthy pieces that you expect from me than with row after row of black and beige and print cotton basics like very other corset page on the net because simply, this is not every other corsetry page on the net! If you would like a classic style corset, please drop me a mail and I’ll organize you a private sale.

I have however completely discontinued Merry Widows, girdles, suspender-belts and other lingerie for various reasons.

cardinal is here

Cardinal is our original range, but all grown up. I have always had a love affair with the past, and this has shown in my previous previous work, much of which has been closer to vintage reproduction than vintage inspiration. Cardinal takes this love affair and updates it. It is gorgeous, opulent and often very over-the-top items with a military or vintage twist but seen through a new lens.

Liq&Milk is here

Liquorice & Milk is a range of unusual basics, closet must-haves, but not your traditional pencil skirt, think quirky and offbeat, but still wearable. It will encompass most apparel from day to special occasion, But each piece will be available only in black and in white.(or occasionally in black and white)

carapace is here

Carapace is our first complete range. most of you will know that I have a thing for insects, particularly spiders and they have a thing for me too, so last year when I decided that doing “a range” (before I decided five would be better!) would be good for my soul, the theme was obvious! A carapace is an insect’s outer shell in much the same way clothing is ours.

What you see in our online shop is Carapace Part 1, it is soft, pretty and extremely feminine. This range will get more and more edgy as it progresses as I am very excited to explore insectiod armor too!drawn & Quatered is here

Drawn & Quartered is less of a clothing range and more of an art gallery. It will encompass clothing of all styles which will have in common one thing – they will all have unique finishes be they drawings or paintings directly onto the item, one-off chemical transfer prints, various dye techniques or limited edition screen-printing done in-house. It will also include jewelry, paintings, sculptures and drawings of various kinds.

Translucent is here

The original idea for Trans+Lucent came from stained glass windows, but over the months that I have been designing for it, it has become so much more than that. Trans+Lucent, is in it’s purest form very modern, minimalist and sheer featuring finishes that explore symbolism and iconography .

So there you have it, I am absolutely loving designing for these ranges and am so excited to So much to look forward to showing you what’s next!

I will upload new items to the online shop as they are launched, even if I use crappy instagram images while we wait to do proper ones so that I can keep the site as relevant and up to date as possible for all of our clientele around the world.

go to, have a look and let me know what you think.