Bed on Water’s C5: “Rorschach” Collection Blends Fashion and Psychology

How creative director Shanel Campbell explores humanity through dress

On February 15th, 2023, Shanel Campbell, designer and creative director of Bed on Water- released the C5: “Rorschach” Collection. The 9-look capsule collection is a segment of a year-long project inspired by Rorschach tests: a form of psychological evaluation. With many of the garments featuring interpretive ink-like designs, Campbell uses this collection to conceptualize what a “human Rorschach test” would look like.

In 1939, Rorschach tests became an official way to predict one’s personality, and is still used to this day. Invented in 1918 by Hermann Rorschach, this test urges subjects to interpret meanings from seemingly ambiguous ink block images. In analyzing the results, psychiatrists can make scientific predictions about a patient’s personality and mental health. 

From start to finish, this collection is both a work of art and an exercise in mental elasticity. Not only are the clothes inspired by ink blocks, but so too are the mannequins that Campbell opts for instead of traditional models. Both the mannequin and many garments model the symmetry that occurs in Rorschach testing. In creating this collection, Campbell takes a deep dive into the psychology of both the wearer and onlooker.

While some garments offer an interpretive element inherent to Rorschach tests through deep blue and black patterning, others let the mannequin do the talking. Utilizing gray, nude, and other objectively subdued colors, Campbell oftentimes makes the mannequin the center of attention. In doing so, the designer blurs the lines of dress and humanity.

Worn by the likes of Solange Knowles and Issa Rae, Bed on Water defines itself as an “interdisciplinary art-house,” and Shanel Campbell is just as multifaceted. During the 2020 pandemic, Campbell began using mannequins to model her designs in an effort to adhere to NYC Covid-19 guidelines. What she didn’t know is that she would be changing the way that fashion is presented. This season, however, Campbell is shifting how we digest fashion in an entirely new way- through psychological analysis. 

“This season was all about falling in love with the process and craftsmanship,” says Campbell. “Everything was done in the studio. From the drapes, patterns, and sewing to the styling and photography. To dedicate time to every step of the process was a lot of fun.”

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