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Chloé Delecolle 03.20.23

Watercore : the siren's song


Since every trend now has the “core” suffix and a micro-community who, like a cult’s faithful followers, spreads its codes and interpretations, allow us to present #watercore! This esthetic trend celebrates water’s beauty and power by taking inspiration from the oceans and adopting the mermaid as a symbol. Ophélie Lepert, Insights Consultant with NellyRodi, explains the phenomenon.

The fascination with water and its imagery and representations isn’t really new, but it has become particularly significant in recent months. The Mermaidcore movement started last year and continues into 2023, sparked by both “Avatar 2,” which came out in December 2022 and by numerous ocean references in recent Fashion Weeks’ shows. And with the release – scheduled for June 2023 – of a modern adaptation of “The Little Mermaid” by Disney, #mermaidcore is not about to stop.

@bodyandstyle This is a detailed breakdown of mermaidcore into its elements to help your purse and the planet #mermaidcore #mermaidaesthetic #aestheticbreakdown ♬ TQG – KAROL G & Shakira


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How do you explain such enthusiasm? What adaptations and interpretations fuel this universe?

The Mermaidcore trend is part of an overall fascination for and interest in water.

For us and all other species – flora and fauna – water is an indispensable, vital resource. It makes up 65% of our bodies and covers 72% of our blue planet. This renewed fascination with water is, above all, a kind of search for origins – understanding where we come from and how to function as we face the imminent dangers of climate change.

Water, so necessary to life, is everywhere, sometimes even where it shouldn’t be, with floods or tsunamis. And yet it is increasingly rare, as proven by a 32-day dry spell in winter in France or by droughts every summer around the world. In the past we’ve focused on protecting land, but we are slowly understanding that, though the Amazon is one of the planet’s lungs, our oceans are the second vital organ and produce over half the oxygen we breathe.


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Since this awakening, there have been an increasing number of positive actions to protect the deep sea and its inhabitants. The documentary film on whales “The Guardians of the Planet,” released on 22 February, is a wake-up call about the massacre of cetaceans, the pollution of the oceans, and the link between the whales’ survival and our own. During the three hours of “Avatar: The Way of Water” by James Cameron, the adventures take place in an underwater environment threatened by man. The fabulous visuals of this imaginary world (finally not so different from our own) relays a strong message about preserving the oceans. The movie leads us to slowly understand how precious water is and, faced with its decline, we are again enchanted with its beauty.

The fact is we know very little about the ocean’s depths. That lets our imaginations run wild and create a colorful dream world where magical creatures live. This enchanted world with fantastic characteristics has sparked tales and legends (the Kraken, the Leviathan, Scylla and Charybdis, and Hans Christian Andersen’s “The Little Mermaid”) for a long time. More recently it’s been an inspiration source for movies and animated features: “The Little Mermaid” from Disney (1989), Pixar’s animated movie “Luca” (2021), and “Avatar 2” (2022).


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The mermaid: a myth with current political relevance

Mermaids have stimulated our imagination for hundreds of years and can be found in different forms in every culture and folklore heritage. In the “Iliad” they have a bird’s body and a woman’s head, while in Nordic and African mythology, they live underwater and have a fish or serpent tail. Despite these different representations, all sirens share common features: a sinister aura and seductive powers over men. Like so many mythological female creatures (Eve, Medusa, and Daphne to name a few), mermaids’ behavior is associated with feminine caricatures such as seduction, sensuality, carnality, and desire … techniques they use to dominate (kill) men. Today’s versions are happily less sinister, but they maintain the same feminist message of giving women back control over men.

For its modern adaption of “The Little Mermaid,” Disney decided to work with Halle Bailey. The first visuals of the movie released in 2019 caused intense controversy about the choice of the black actress/singer to play Ariel. On TikTok the #NotMyAriel hashtag garnered 15 million views. Internauts accused Disney of racebending, or using an actor with a different ethnicity from the role they play to create an inclusive image. They maintained that the idea of a black mermaid was unfounded, especially for Ariel, who is Danish with blue eyes. For antiracist militants, mermaids are imaginary creatures with no defined skin color. Mermaids exist in so many different cultures, that a black mermaid, like the African water divinity, Mami Wata, is legitimate. Noting the scarcity of black people in visual productions, they praised Disney’s choice.


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Beyond these feminist and black representation issues, mermaids are also seen as queer icons. As a last word about “The Little Mermaid”: in the original story, published in 1837, Ariel is thought to personify the story’s author, Hans Christian Andersen, who was in love with Prince Eric, or Edvard Collin in real life. Anderson wrote him numerous letters confessing his feelings, but those feelings were not reciprocated. In the story, Ursula tells Ariel that to win Eric  she has to change who she is, and even lose her tail, a metaphor which, given the context, isn’t negligible. Mermaids don’t have a clearly defined gender. Are they women, men, gender fluid, or genderless? We don’t really know, so their gender is open to every identification. Like unicorns, rainbow-colored mermaids have become an inclusive symbol for the queer community.

#Mermaidcore, a powerful esthetic dimension that’s increasingly present in the creative industries

The Mermaidcore movement is part of a politically charged context and defends its foundational values through associated esthetics.

The Y2K trend (the 2000s) is still exploring and interpreting codes from the past.

Mermaidcore would be the logical step after Seapunk (2010), a fashion subculture from social media and especially Tumblr. The style mixes psychedelic esthetics and marine-world references: the color blue, dolphins, shells, etc.

Today #mermaidcore and #watercore group all the esthetic trends concerning the ocean and mermaids. During the latest Fashion Weeks (SS23 and FW 23/24), aquatic-inspired details were everywhere on the catwalks. At Blumarine’s SS23 “Underwater” show, the models’ legs were lengthened by long panels of denim and other blue fabrics adorned with floaty ruffles that clearly recalled mermaids’ tails and fins. A shell bra peeked out from under an open top, and masses of cords, like fishing nets, encased the models’ bodies, while the show’s blue scenography evoked the ocean’s depths. For its SS23 collection titled “Aqua Love,” Vaillant Studio also used marine codes. Some prints and textures recalled fish scales or mermaid tails, and models were submerged in water for the the photo shoot. And finally, for its FW 23/24 show, Di Pesta’s models were like ocean goddesses. The silhouettes were long lined, and the clothes and hair had a wet look, as if the models had just come out of the water before appearing on the catwalk.


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The trend is also popular with celebrities. Last September Julia Fox attended the Parsons MFA fashion show dressed – literally – as a mermaid. Transparent coral hid her breasts, and the rest of her body was covered in iridescent fabric embellished with faux algae and ending in a fish-tail shape. Dua Lipa posted photos of herself dressed in a maxi jeans dress that lengthened her figure and then fanned out at the bottom. The outfit paired with her black hair earned her the name “dark mermaid.”


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On TikTok, internauts share their top tips for adopting the siren look, and the hashtags #wetlook and #sireneyes have respectively earned 530 million and 1 billion views.

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