The Journey of Sylke Golding: From Runway Model to Sealmaiden

sealmaiden shirt

“Start anytime, with anything, enjoy the journey and after a while ‘getting there’ will become irrelevant.” – Sylke Golding

Sylke Golding started in a shoe store. Well, she was discovered in one. It’s a dreamy tale of being in the exact right place at the exact right time, causing the trajectory of your life to spin off in a crazy, unexpected direction. One minute, you’re shoe shopping with your sister and two weeks later, Elite Model Management has you jetting off to Paris for the summer to take test portfolio shots. Ain’t life grand?!

Sylke spent the next decade working with some of the most progressive, important fashion houses in the world, namely Valentino, Prada, Armani and Comme des Garçons, both on the runway and in print. And where is she now? Creating small batch, thoughtful fashion in her Brooklyn studio under the moniker Sealmaiden.

sylke golding

No, Sylke doesn’t have her own couture line. Yet. She is a textile surface designer; she creates and executes stunning silkscreen designs onto existing cotton dresses, shirts and bags. She’s a hardworking, self-taught, one woman operation, from sketches to screen-building to hand inking every garment.

Though quite removed from the bright lights of the catwalk, she has discovered her element and a bit of artful meditation along the way: “I have found peace of mind working for myself and by myself, space and time disappear and I am just doing. It’s also lot of work and many long hours spent completing orders and working every day including weekends. But it is totally worth it. I am the boss here! As a model one is rarely allowed input into the creative process. Often you are just there to be pretty and make the clothes look good. But this is mine, I own this.”

sealmaiden dress

Despite being surrounded by fashion icons for a decade, the surprising catalyst for opening her own studio was her husband: “Sometimes it takes another person to make you see things about yourself that you cannot see on your own.” Back in her modeling days, she would keep a little notebook with her to help kill time between shoots and on airport layovers.  She filled these notebooks with doodles–her husband wanted her to do something with them. “A new design usually starts with looking at my old doodle drawings. I am always amazed how ‘new’ they look after not having looked at them for a while. Even drawings I initially did not consider a success. Months or even years later I finally have developed the eye to see it – some things take time.”

Her current designs are incredibly elegant and dramatic with an air of fluidity, particularly her on-trend use of metallic inks on black–nature-inspired designs that read a bit Art Deco. As a model, she loved “Japanese designers best, Comme de Garçons and of course Yohji Yamamoto were really quite something else,” she said. “Later on when I visited Japan, I understood why, what really got to me was their way of making the extraordinary look unassuming and unpretentious.”

sealmaiden dress

“I can’t call out one particular thing that will inspire me. Inspiration is funny that way, it just hits you and you see it. It can happen while walking the streets or flipping through a magazine or watching a movie. Its a accumulation of past experiences and all the things you have seen before and things that caught your eye a long time go and somewhere got stuck in your head…Inspiration is everywhere.”

The Sealmaiden collection is eco-friendly and socially responsible, produced using only ethically sourced, sweat-shop free materials (shirts, dresses, totes) and printed with 100 percent water-based inks. This has always been of huge importance to Sylke, not as a sales tool or a desire to serve an environmentally aware niche market, but in the most sincere way possible: “I love nature and I love eating healthy nutritious foods. I love the natural order of things. I want to help preserve this.”

What’s the next chapter in Sylke Golding’s journey? She’s completed a few semesters at FIT to hone her skills in pattern-making and garment construction and has her heart set on starting her own stem to stern clothing line.  Those notebook doodles will become full-realized fashion sketches and she’ll be hiring models of her own. She’ll be walking the runway again, this time at the end of the show, to gather applause and garner praise for a job surely well done.


All photos of Sylke Golding appear courtesy of Sealmaiden

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