Stella & Fanny. Erdem SS19

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At a first glace this seemed to be a very typical, Erdem collection. Floor sweeping gowns made of satin; puffed sleeves; huge bows in the brightest colours; lots and lots of brocades and lace. A wardrobe suited for a palace dame, you might think. But in fact, the idea behind the collection isn’t that regal, or even conservative, as you might easily suppose. For those more concerned, this collection was deeply connected with the contemporary politics of gender self-identification. Erdem Moralioglu and his parter, Philip Joseph, lately bought a house in Bloomsbury, “and there was a plaque around the corner dedicated to two sisters, Stella and Fanny, who in fact were Frederick Park and Ernest Boulton, who lived as women in the 1860s.”  As Sarah Mower teaches in her Vogue feature, “Fanny and Stella, retrospectively honored as heroines of queer London in that plaque, were very publicly out and about in Victorian nightlife. In 1870, the notorious ladies were arrested leaving the Strand Theatre and charged with “conspiring and inciting persons to commit an unnatural offense”—although they were later acquitted.” Not only were the Victorian era-inspired garments a clue for this quite very uncommon reference, but as well a gender-fluid model casting that appeared on the runway. The beauty of craftsmanship and dress-making was embraced in this gorgeous line-up, yes, but as well the beauty of something much, much deeper and humane. “Far beyond any perceived thrill of cross-dressing,” the designer wrote in his press notes, “these were individuals with the courage to explore the power of self-expression.” Powerful.

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Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

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