Celeste Arendse’s latest collection references the women of Picasso and Matisse

“Breasts of Desire”, the latest collection Cape Town-based fashion label Selfi, explores the way women’s bodies are portrayed in modern culture.

In an unusual and ingenious twist to fashion, Celeste Arendse – the designer behind Selfi – has used inspiration from 20th century artists’ Matisse and Picasso to explore the contemporary phenomenon surrounding breasts.   

Her latest collection “Breasts of Desire” uses the work of the fauvist and the cubist respectively to celebrate the female form rather than sexualise it. Whether they’re covered, exposed, breast-feeding or just a little bit of nipple is exposed on Instagram, modern culture gives breasts a hard time.

“With this collection I wanted to focus on the areas of women’s bodies that I feel are being portrayed in derogatory ways and in ways that are more pornographic than beautiful,” Arendse says. “I wanted to make women’s bodies appear beautiful.”

Arendse's past collections have featured soft silhouettes, architectural folds and a bold print story of broad-brush strokes and geometric prints.  “Breasts of Desire” follows in the classic Selfi tradition of simplicity and quality fabric, but this collection differ because it features obscure images of breasts digitally printed onto Moss crepe – a crisp fabric with a crimped appearance.

It’s easy to read the breast prints on the garments as feminist statement about body positivity, but in the interview Arendse gently opposes this: not because she isn’t a feminist, but because she doesn’t want to box her work in – “What if I have penises in the next collection?” she asks.

The inspiration from both Matisse and Picasso’s preliminary sketches of uncovered breasts is clear. Arendse references the thick black lines of Matisse and the voluptuous and abstracted forms of Picasso’s breasts. And like both Matisse and Picasso, “Breasts of Desire” reminds us that the body can be beautiful without being sexualised.

“I think in terms of direction, what I want is my brand to always express itself, however it may be inspired that season,” she says. “I don’t want to be confined to any colour, prints, shape or silhouette.”

Her next move is towards gender-bending garments and unisex clothes inspired by menswear: “I don’t design for just women and men anymore, I just want to design for a particular person.”

Celeste Arendse is also the art director and photographer behind the "Breasts of Desire" lookbook.

More on African Design