Leda and the Swan - Design Dissertation

  • L   E   D   A    A  N  D    T  H  E     S  W  A  N
  • Design dissertation by Paula Castellanos Zafra

  • The final project I developed to obtain my Design dregree explores the creative direction from multiple aspects: Stage costume design, script, production and set design. It arises from the interest in female gestures, body, movement and muses. 

    From the Greek myth Leda and the Swan, power, seduction, ingenuity and transformation are represented on stage. In this story, Zeus transforms himself into a Swan and descends to Earth to seduce Leda. In the lake the two feel a great power of attraction that culminates in the sexual act. 

    This is an authentic piece designed for the scenic portfolio of the performer in which Design and Contemporary Dance come together as a whole. Each element of the performance receives an experiential moment and is coupled with an organic body movement created by the muse. Finally, the audience is immersed in the narratives that inspired each of the designer's creations.
  • Is it possible to design garments based on gestures in order to present them through a performance?
  • My initial idea was to design a collection of garments inspired by the glory of feminine body and gestures. Since the relationship between feminity and body gestures encompasses a large number of shapes and positions, I decided to focus on a specific type: The gestures and the body of a contemporary dancer with modern dance tendencies.
    My constant interest in authenticity and communication through design led me not only to design the outfits, but also to direct and produce a complete staging to present them in front of an audience.
    I decided to get out of the scheme of designing clothes and presenting on catwalks because I wanted to immerse my audience in more complex narratives, just like the great Alexander McQueen once did.
    Give the audience not only pieces of clothing but also a true meaning from the designer’s inspiration. In this piece the creative direction in design and contemporary dance come together to reveal this mythological story and transpose it into a tangible atmosphere full of emotions.
  • Findings
    (The following images support the background research and belong to multiple authors)​​​​​​​

  • Body:Gestures are a form of nonverbal language.

  • Representation: The gestuality in dance and performance is particular.
  • Provenance: Inspiration to create narratives. (muses and greek mythology)

  • Design opportunity
    It is an opportunity for the designer to explore the creative direction from multiple aspects. Also the intimate relationship in the process that allows a deep knowledge of the interpreter and the staging in general.

    This is the visual support of communication that acts as the core of the project. The moodboard will allow the designer and the muse to follow a specific track in order to develop coherent pieces and movements.
  • Script
    This script is represented in a table which contains specific elements of each scene, except for the 5 and 6 that are improvised on stage. In this way an order and a universal language is established between designer and the muse. It is originally written in Spanish, my mother tongue, but translation is available upon request.

  • Sketching

    The sketches emerged from the choreography that was created from the script. Each movement was taken into account in such a meticulous way that the material could transition and adapt onto the next movement. As the gestures change, the way the garments are seen do as well. 
    In the sketches, traditional fashion models are not used, but on the contrary, a real gesture of the choreography is illustrated to create.

  • Creating
    I created the garments with the help of my Singer Legacy sewing machine and seamstress Aida.

  • Behind the scenes

    These are some images that captured the design process with the garments, the lights, the scenery, styling and hair&makeup.

  • Final piece

  • I am indefinitely grateful to Carolina Obregón for accompanying me and guiding my dissertation project throughout the first semester of 2018, you've been an amazing teacher and role model.

    Ana, Christian and Aida I thank you for helping me in what was the most important job in my career as a designer so far. 

    To my Mum for the constant support, especially for being with me in this difficult time that meant the early departure of my Dad to heaven. I owe him all the teachings he gave me and I promise to do everything possible to make him feel proud of me despite the distance. This includes my little siblings who give me inspiration and love every single day. 

    To my school of design friends: Natalia, Laura and Maria for the infinite experiences and friendship that filled with value every step I took at University of the Andes, Colombia. 

    To my Soulsby family in Canada for these 10 years of love and company. And last but not least many thanks to my dearest friends from London, specially Marta Gronowska who's been such a great support and inspiration.

    "Simplicity is a solved complexity".


  • 2019

  • Dior SS19 Campaign 
  • Recognized photographer Harley Weir perfectly captures the delicateness of Maria Grazia Chiuri's dance-inspired collection. A campaigns that resembles the core concept of my dissertation.
    Honouring the female form through textures in motion, choreography and narratives.  

    Here are a few shots from the campaign
  • Transparent textures with a nude colour palette blending with every movement to make fashion adapt to the beauty of these female gestures. Both Dior and I recognised the greatness of Martha Graham and how the timeless female divinity can be appreciated beyond its surface. 

    Just by introducing motion of the female body in dancing and the textures. Through both works they all combine and become a whole. With that realisation I made the every scene from my performance a reality: garments, body, makeup, set design, music and lights became one.

    In the words of Dior:
    "A celebration of the female form divine, the modern dance inspiration of the Dior Spring-Summer 2019 collection by #MariaGraziaChiuri represents a direct link to the work of Christian Dior himself, for whom the reverence of the feminine body was a guiding principle. As part of the #DiorSS19 campaign, photographer @HarleyWeir captures three of the dancers from the @SharonEyalDance company who rendered the show in September such an unforgettable spectacle. [...]"

    All I can say is fashion goes beyond just clothing,
    is a complex universe of narratives.

  • Design work and dissertation by: Paula Castellanos Zafra
    All rights reserved
    2018 Ⓡ