Had it not been for Somnus, New York's Spring Fashion Week 2007 would have been just another business-as-usual amalgamation of buyer-friendly collections. The Somnus show brought back the raw energy and beauty of the DIY fashion shows from earlier this century -- when American Manufacturing, ORFI, Bruce, AsFour, Imitation of Christ, Jess Holzworth, Benjamin Cho and Susan Cianciolo were turning fashion inside out -- and made a quiet ripple. But all this is nothing new to Lillian Ludlow and Marcella Mullins, who met while toiling away at the Imitation of Christ camp during its inception. Eventually, as Ludlow tells it, they set out together like "two lovers in the night who stowed away." For their first presentation back in 2005, the pair shot a short film with cinematographer Allen Cordell. It featured downtown starlets ChloÃ« Sevigny, Rita Ackermann and Lizzi Bougatsos playing variations on Isabelle Adjani's character from Possession. Working out of Port Chester, New York, both Ludlow and Mullins are self-taught seamstresses. Ludlow learned sewing at an early age at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Seattle and from her mother and grandmother. Mullins, an Ohio native, learned her craft from her father and from working at high-end vintage couture shops. Ludlow chose the name Somnus (a reference to the ancient Roman god of sleep, a son of night and brother of death) on a whim, but it couldn't be more fitting. The duo's clothes are simple but exquisite, humble and beatific, somber yet sacred. But the symbiotic partners put it more plainly. "We make things that lie strangely -- you might have to reach down your arms more [to touch] your pocket, just little slight details like that," says Mullins. "Our aesthetic is so much in tune that we don't really need to communicate about it. We trust our eyes so much. They see the same outcome." Ludlow agrees: "We just look at each other and we know."
Carpet by Rosson Crow, inspired by The Shining, courtesy of CANADA Gallery