When it was time last year for New York designer Shanel Campbell to photograph her new Bed on Water collection, her options were limited. She couldn’t have that many people on set due to the pandemic, so she resorted to styling her clothes on mannequins rather than traditional models – a “creepy” choice, she admits, but one that ended up being far more conscious than presented them first. “[The mannequins] refer to this idea of the ‘ideal fashion body’, “says Campbell. “I’m someone who always struggles with body dysmorphism and I’ve always said, ‘Oh, you’ wish you looked like that mannequin. ‘”She saw a wise irony in showing off the clothes she was introducing herself for Everyone Body types, on a form that has traditionally perpetuated a narrow view of beauty.
Seeing Campbell’s eye-catching, energetic pink ruffled dresses and printed cut-out gowns on lifeless bodies made for an eerie end result indeed. And in a way, that mysterious vibe of their new collection, which combines elements of Afrofuturism and clubwear, is as puzzling as the brand itself. The brand rarely posts content on their Instagram page, but their money-printed bras and skirts are currently in the Gucci Vault sold, the label’s online concept store selling up-and-coming designers and vintage Gucci pieces, and have been worn by celebrities like Tracee Ellis Ross, Issa Rae and Solange. Campbell, who is from the Bronx and is a Parsons graduate, admits he is deliberately holding back. Like her mannequins, she prefers to stay faceless and let her clothes speak for themselves. “I’m a super private person, and I’m not really a social media person,” she says.
To date, Campbell has only released two official collections, but each has shown extreme promise and insight into Campbell’s creative spirit. Her first collection debuted during New York Fashion Week in 2018 (the line was then called Shanel). “My first collection was very funny; it was all red and even a bit costumed, ”says Campbell, who showed sculptural dresses and items in bright crimson. Her second collection, now under the name Bed of Water, is decidedly more vampire. She was drawn to a creepy-glamorous aesthetic for the line’s designs, which include velvety corsets and abstract print slip dresses. “As an October baby, I am love Halloween and the scary season, ”says Campbell. “I want to be the designer who takes over October but makes really great clothes – not costumes.”