As he was researching his Fall collection, Erdem dreamed up “an improbable meeting between two women, which could never have happened — [his] great-grandmothers.” He’s not a political designer in the slightest, but his subject matter has particular poignancy now. Erdem’s mother was English; his father a Turkish chemical engineer. They raised their children (Erdem and his twin, Sara) in Montreal, Canada. After their parents passed away, the siblings were left with no visual evidence of the Turkish strand of their DNA, two generations back. Erdem explained, “We know they were from the east, east of Turkey. Near the Syrian border.” Significant unhappiness has come to that region. War has caused the displacement of millions of refugees into Turkey and, consequently, throughout Europe. It’s the site of one of the greatest geopolitical and humanitarian disasters of our time.
Erdem’s clothes are never “unhappy” — they are more aptly classified as belonging to the uplifting and escapist tendency of fashion. His cinematic, imaginative realms are always historical. Still, everything is a choice. In electing to turn to Islamic references — the riches of the Ottoman Empire, photographs of sultans, and 18th- and 19th-century paintings of women splendidly bedecked in harems — Erdem points to the beauty of a whole civilization (and to his long-lost heritage, which is currently being vilified in the west).
The Turkish thread certainly brought out beautiful effects: necklines, pom-pom trims, and embroideries borrowed from traditional folk costume; and thoughts about cotton voile and caftans. The English side of the Erdem identity — camel coats, florals, tea-dresses and guipure lace — is the more familiar. Yet, most beautiful of all the cross-pollinations was the meld of English flowers and Islamic miniature painting, which created a patchwork of prints on lovely silk velvet dresses. The show concluded with two exquisite long sequined dresses in purplish-blue with nothing apparently “in theme” about them — not that it detracted from them.
London, February 20th,2017. Article written by Sarah Mower.