After our Spring Summer collection, we were keen to find another incredible woman from the history books to inspire the designs of Autumn Winter. Through our research, we discovered the perfect muse: explorer, mystic and spiritualist Alexandra David-Néel.
Born in Paris in 1868, Alexandra David-Néel's life was characterised by adventure. In her early life, she studied in Madame Blavatsky’s Theosophical Society and was a member of the Freemasons. She subsequently embarked on a career as an opera singer – training in Brussels, and working in Hanoi and Athens – before marrying the chief engineer of the Tunisian Railways, and relocating to Tunis to manage a casino!
Left: Alexandra David-Néel as a teenager in 1886 | Right: Alexandra David-Néel in Tibet in 1933
Most incredibly, though, Alexandra David-Néel is known for a remarkable fourteen-year pilgrimage across Asia; beginning in 1911, when she followed her wanderlust to Sikkim to further her study of Buddhism. She spent time at a royal monastery, befriending the crown prince, and also meeting a young monk who would later become her adopted son, Aphur Yongden. Alexandra and Aphur later decided to retire from the monastery, living in a hermitage cave for two years.
After being exiled by the British colonial authorities for attempting to enter Tibet in 1916, Alexandra and her son left for India, and then Japan. Inspired by a Japanese philosopher who had achieved a similar feat, they began an eight-year trek through Korea, across China, and to Mongolia. Disguising themselves as a beggar and monk, they crossed the Himalayas to enter the forbidden city of Lhasa, Tibet, where Alexandra would achieve her ambition of meeting the Dalai Lama.
Alexandra David-Néel later published an account of her pilgrimage, My Journey to Lhasa in 1927, before returning to France. She spent her later years venturing back and forth between Europe and Asia; before finally settling in France at the age of 78, and publishing further writings. She passed away in 1969, having lived to the age of 100.
Our Autumn Winter 2019 collection looks to Alexandra David-Néel’s remarkable odyssey for inspiration, imbuing the collection with an intrepid approach to colour, line and pattern.
Inspiration from our Autumn Winter 2019 moodboard
Our prints draw on a variety of global references: the Medina print draws on Tunisian architecture, while Cumulus grew from explorations into traditional Buddhist imagery. Our Snow Leopard print grew from a gestural artwork, depicting the cold winters of the Himalayas.
Meanwhile, our garments have been inspired by imagery of Alexandra’s journeywear and travelling disguises: wrap cuts, tie details, high collars and longline skirts all draw on photographs of her from across her life.
Left: The Snow Leopard print on our new Journey Skirt | Center: The Tidal Dress in Denim Medina, inspired by Tunisian architectural motifs | Right: Tie-front detail on our Alexandra Dress
We hope this collection inspires you with the same sense of adventure and joie de vivre that we’ve been captivated by, with rich tones and vibrant prints to warm the spirit as we enter cooler climes!