Since debuting on Nickelodeon 20 years ago, SpongeBob SquarePants — the "absorbent, yellow, porous" sea sponge with an ear-shattering laugh and admirable work ethic— has solidified himself as a comedy icon. But never has the Bikini Bottom resident been considered a style icon.
At Amsterdam Fashion Week, rising Dutch designer Marlou Breuls was given the task of reimagining SpongeBob through an avant-garde lens. And having designed for the likes of Björk and Sia — two musicians famous for their left-field style — this collaboration was a perfect fit.
Breuls transformed her runway into an underwater fantasy, with a blow-up pineapple modeled after SpongeBob's home, flower clouds like the ones in Bikini Bottom's sky, and a tropical steel drum soundtrack. "What I loved about SpongeBob was that he was always fun," Breuls says. "The most important thing about that series was that it was okay to be childish." (Front row guests all aptly received miniature SpongeBob plushies).
So the designer leaned into playful innocence for her collection, and the ways SpongeBob SquarePants developed characters with consistent habits across all 12 seasons. "For example, Mrs. Puff explodes into a bigger shape when she's angry or Patrick Star is always lazy and slow," Breuls says. These traits informed the actual designs, twisting cartoonish humor into haute couture womenswear — eight looks to represent eight different characters.
Circles — a graphic reference to SpongeBob's holy texture — were a recurring theme throughout Breuls' lineup. They appeared as cut-outs on a long fishtail dress, as tulle appliqués on a flouncy cocktail number, as 3-D glass bubbles on a strapless ballgown, and as mirrors on a blazer and mini-skirt set. When the designs all posed together, the collection looked like a technicolor coral reef.
"My brand is recognizable by its very big shapes and a lot of experimentation," Breuls says. "But [I'm] also trying to work on the body more as an artist, instead of focusing on real garments. The pieces my brand develops are often quite unusual and not really easy to wear."
One of the most exciting looks resembled Plankton, the evil villain whose mission was to acquire the Krabby Patty Formula for his own restaurant, The Chum Bucket. Breuls created a green, dramatically ruffled dress and matching thigh-high boots with spherical heels (made in collaboration with Naomi Hille). For Squidward, she designed a long, shiny look "with a big head and volume at the bottom;" and Patrick's gown was developed for the model to move slowly in, echoing the starfish's signature lethargic attitude.
Models had wetted hair, dripping down their faces and trapped inside fishnet, and some wore handmade jewelry created in collaboration with Netherlands-based Naula Studio. There were bright red crab claw earrings, and yellow ones that looked like SpongeBob's (somehow human-shaped) hands. Many of Breuls' models carried bags in the shape of SpongeBob's body, which were actually quite cute and easily the most wearable of her collection.
Of course, SpongeBob was Breuls' finale look: a bright yellow mini-dress with monstrous shoulders shielding the models' face and tons of layered ruffles. She also wore a sparkling backpack and holy boots — head-to-toe yellow like the Krusty Krab fry cook himself.
With the 2019 Met Gala on the horizon, and this year's Camp theme begging for over-the-top arrivals, it only seems natural that Breuls' Nickelodeon collab would make an appearance in some capacity. SpongeBob — the collection's showstopper — could, and absolutely should, be worn by anyone from Yeehaw Princess Kacey Musgraves to our fearless fashion freak Frances McDormands. Plankton's sparkling green fantasy would look incredible on Rihanna, Mrs. Puff's poof should get the Solange treatment, and it goes without saying that CupcakKe should take Squidward's gown.
Follow Marlou Breuls on Instagram (@marloubreulsofficial), and revisit CupcakKe's "Squidward Nose" video, below, because it's the right thing to do.
Photos courtesy of Team Peter Stigter