Fashion and science have rarely been bedfellows, but that hasn’t stopped Daniella Helayel going under the microscope for her latest Dhela collection. Possessed of an affinity for the natural world – she’s Brazilian, after all – the designer looked to bustling beetles and exotic insects to infuse her signature easy chic dresses with life. Infused, in the least literal sense: print and colour borrowed from the insect world has given Dhela’s Cruise collection its fabulous vitality. Indeed, for Helayel, insects are akin to “living jewels”, a phrase she coined after extensive research and a deep dive into Wikipedia. So, if you’re suffering from entomophobia? Consider Dhela’s beautiful, bug print dresses your remedial treatment.
“I am obsessed with insects, and I began adding images to a Pinterest board,” she says, of researching her latest collection. “Some of the insects are only half a centimetre in size but they have these amazing bejewelled colours, and seeing them walking along leaves was like witnessing little jewels going about their daily life.”
From the incredible iridescent scales on the exoskeleton of the Polka Dotted Clown Weevil, which gives the impression of the insect being speckled with glitter, to the modernist shapes that decorate the shields of the Sphaerocoris annulus, also known as the Picasso Bug (for obvious reasons), to the searing orange-red hues and intricate black pattern of the Malay Lacewing butterfly’s wings, Helayel took inspiration from the vibrant hues and sophisticated patterns that energise the natural world’s not-so-creepy crawlies, and created 150 different variations of prints. “We went insect mad!” she admits.
The insect link places Helayel in the tradition of designers such as Alexander McQueen and Elsa Schiaparelli, both of whom looked to the natural world for visual stimulation. The Italian couturier frequently incorporated bugs into her Surrealist repertoire, largely thanks to the elaborate cockroach-shaped buttons designed for her by her artist friends, including Salvador Dalí and Jean Cocteau, which fastened prim suits. Pushing the envelope further, the collection also featured Schiaparelli’s famed beetle necklace. Made of clear plastic, the metallic insects appear to be resting on the wearer’s skin.
No such horrors, however, pervade this Dhela collection. Metallic is key: Helayel found the bug-inspired prints look far more sophisticated on metallic chiffons, allowing them to shimmer like insect wings. That said, the “Monarch” ruffle wrap dress, with its gorgeously graphic print, sits pretty on silk crepe de chine. Whatever your choice, the tagline should come easily: gaudy as a butterfly is a good thing for spring.