Fashion-Forward Spectrograms: White Stork Calls Go Haute Couture

By Gustave Axelson
October 4, 2021
Artist Alice Hargrave used spectrograms of White Stork audio recordings from the Macaulay Library to make decorative prints, which became the design for a new fashion line in the Dovima Paris Spring Summer 2020 collection. Art and fashion photos courtesy of Dovima Paris; White Stork by Santiago Caballero Carrera/Macaulay LibraryArtist Alice Hargrave used spectrograms of White Stork audio recordings from the Macaulay Library to make decorative prints, which became the design for a new fashion line in the Dovima Paris Spring Summer 2020 collection. Art and fashion photos courtesy of Dovima Paris; White Stork by Santiago Caballero Carrera/Macaulay Library.

From the Autumn 2021 issue of Living Bird magazine. Subscribe now.

The clattering and bill-clapping of a White Stork took a turn on the runway as an audio spectrogram from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Macaulay Library was featured in a line of wom­en’s silk dresses by a Paris fashion house.

It all started with Chicago artist Alice Hargrave, who was inspired when she heard a Macaulay Library audio record­ing and watched the spectrogram of the breeding song of the Kauai Oo, a spe­cies that went extinct in the 1980s.

“Hearing an archival recording of the last male summoning a nonexistent female was absolutely chilling,” says Hargrave. “Seeing the voice literally fizzle out on a computer monitor [via the spectrogram] was just gut wrenching and brought home the incredible sense of loss that extinction represents.”

Model wears a Dovima dress with pattern inspired by White Stork recordings. Photo courtesy of Dovima Paris.In this image from the 2020 Dovima Spring Summer collection, a dress bears a pattern inspired by White Stork recordings. Photo courtesy of Dovima Paris.

Hargrave reached out to the Macau­lay Library for her Last Calls project, which used the spectrograms of threat­ened birds to create visual artwork of the sound wave patterns. For her pal­ettes, she worked in the tones of each species’s plumage, in order to “use color as advocacy, giving loud colorful voice to these birds in peril.”

When Hargrave posted her White Stork spectrogram portrait on Instagram, it was seen by fashion designer Jane Pendry—who reached out about using the design for the Spring Summer 2020 collection by Dovima Paris. Last year the Ciconia line of women’s dresses (named for the White Stork’s scientific name, Ciconia ciconia) was featured in fashion shows in Paris, New York, and Chicago.

Hargrave says she was thrilled that the White Stork’s spectrogram was chosen for the fashion line: “I love the connotations of birth and new life that the stork embodies…much like the angel Gabriel, the bearer of good news, but in the domain of birds.”

And the Ciconia line brought good news itself, as Dovima Paris donated $8,000 from the line’s sales to the Cor­nell Lab of Ornithology for furthering bird conservation.

Cornell Lab of Ornithology

All About Birds is a free resource

Available for everyone,
funded by donors like you

Donate

Need Bird ID Help? Try Merlin