Erdem’s romantic heroines often look like they stepped out of the pages of a 19th-century novel with their pretty Toile de Jouy flowers and empire-style gowns with puffed sleeves. It’s a singular look that the London-based designer has created for nearly two decades by immersing himself in art exhibitions and fashion archives, including the largest fashion collection in the world at the British museum of decorative arts and design, the V&A. And it’s one that couldn’t be further from the Gen Z penchant for bras like tops and trendy cuts that, in the past season, has permeated so many other runways. But as the mononymous creative sees it, that doesn’t mean he’s stuck in the past. Rather, it is only by looking back that we can hope to make sense of the present.
Erdem’s Spring 2023 collection, exhibited today in London among the columns of the Greek revival of the British Museum, obviously comes at an important moment in British history. London Fashion Week coincides with the late Queen Elizabeth II’s state lie at Westminster Abbey, which is expected to bring up to one million people to the UK capital, including hundreds of royalty, heads of state and heads of government – to pay tribute to the late monarch before his funeral tomorrow. All shows and presentations on Monday have been canceled and some brands, such as Burberry, have chosen to reschedule for the end of the month. But Erdem and most of his compatriots including JW Anderson, Simone Rocha, Christopher Kane, Harris Reed, Chopova Lowena and Nensi Dojaka believe the show should go on this weekend as a tribute to the monarch who has long supported the industry. of British fashion and honored rising talent with the Queen Elizabeth II Award for British Design.
The queen’s life and times have often been a point of reference for Erdem; her Resort 2023 collection was inspired by the arrangements of her longtime florist Constance Spry for her coronation in 1953. “It’s an extremely sad time in London: Her Majesty the Queen was an inspiration and I greatly admire her sense of duty and service, “says Erdem. “The best way for the industry to support British designers is to attend fashion shows, photograph collections and buy collections. It’s a difficult time, but it has also brought a real sense of solidarity to London. “
Titling his show “Pain is the price we pay for love”, after the Queen’s famous words of condolence in the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, and dedicating the collection to her memory, Erdem looked further back in story for its landmarks this season, sending out a series of black faille corset dresses with remnant 18th century embroidery and bursting Old Masters engraved prints. Many looks featured a black ribbon, black fishnet veils, or shredded details that referenced a historic mourning dress, while the closing look – an optic white corset dress with full skirt and long train and skirt covered in black couture mesh and floral embroidered tulle – it looked like a photographic negative of the queen’s coronation gown.
More generally, Erdem was inspired this season by the artistic restoration process, most notably seeing revived an 18th century embroidered gown with an intricate tulle structure and a damaged 15th century oil painting brought back to life based on a 17th century engraving. “My studio team and I spent a lot of time behind the scenes with the restorers and restoration teams from the British Museum, the National Gallery, Tate Britain and the V&A,” he recalls. “I was thinking about the forensic passion needed to dedicate one’s life to bringing a work of art back to life, the way some restorers can work on a work for up to twenty years. It is about obsession and dedication, the way in which the boundaries between restoration and home can become blurred ”.
Those last words-obsession And dedication—Sounds not unlike Erdem’s creative process, which is intellectual, thoroughly studied, augmentative, and always tends towards greater understanding. The Montreal-raised designer, whose parents are British and Turkish, advocated diversity and inclusion long before these were industry buzzwords. He was the first designer to collaborate with stylist Ib Kamara, even before Virgil Abloh, and now works with Gabriella Karefa-Johnson.
Erdem creates silhouettes – long skirts and sleeves and high necks – that appeal to a Modest fashion client in the Middle East, without this being their sole intent. Fans include Nicole Kidman, Michelle Dockery, Alexa Chung and Catherine, Princess of Wales, and many women around the world who don’t want to get naked. “Fashion should always be inclusive,” says Erdem. “Why create something that only certain body types can wear? When something is well designed, it should fit everyone. ”Last year, Erdem decided to stock his full collection in sizes ranging from a UK 6 to a UK 22.
“Ultimately, fashion has always been a mirror of what is happening in the world,” says Erdem. It was never as clear as in his Fall 2022 collection celebrating Weimar’s pioneering artists, which was shown in London on February 21, three days before Russia invaded Ukraine. In a fashion season where Instagram feeds would become a surreal juxtaposition of women and children fleeing rockets launched in Kiev and fashion business as usual in other European capitals, Erdem’s show was the first, and one of the few, to face the existential threat of authoritarianism. Forgoing her signature flowers, Erdem showed off an almost entirely monochromatic lineup with Sally Bowles-style bustiers over midi dresses and a lace dress paired with black elbow studded gloves and a sequined boa.
“I saw an incredibly powerful exhibit at The Barbican called In the night in 2019 which documented the culture of cabaret and revolutionary art that emerged from the shadow of an impending war, “explains Erdem of his inspiration for autumn 2022.” There were so many parallels between the current situation and the past. Ultimately, I found it fascinating that in the face of oppression, extraordinary artists such as Jeanne Mammen, Madame d’Ora, Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler, Anita Berber and Valeska Gert pioneered their particular streak of avant-garde expressionism. form of protest.
How does Erdem find his starting point each season, I wonder? “I think it is important to continue to evolve, as a brand and as a person,” replies Erdem. “My creative process is always to start with the research, to build the narrative and the collection starts from there. Sometimes it takes you to unexpected places ”. Unexpected, but not unknown. “In terms of the themes that lead from my latest collection on the catwalk to this one, they are chapters in the same books, so they will inevitably link to each other,” adds Erdem.
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