The Path to Liberation. Dilara Findikoglu SS23

If Ti West’s “X” and “Pearl” (the A24 film productions starring Mia Goth) are contemporary slashers revamping old-school horror vocabulary for a new generation, then Dilara Findikoglu‘s hypnotizing spring-summer 2023 collection is a fresh take on Alexander McQueen and John Galliano’s 1990s dark anglomania book, from the former’s infamous interpretation of Jack The Ripper stories to the latter’s gothic Victorian sophistication. But don’t get it wrong: the designer isn’t imitating the legends. She’s becoming a London-based legend herself, telling through fashion her own, personal stories. “This collection is about my journey to physical and spiritual freedom,” Findikoglu explained. She elaborated that a return during the pandemic to her birthplace, Istanbul, had begun the process of liberation we saw expressed on the runway. During her 18 months in the city, its association with her childhood memories plus some visa problems acted as her madeleine. “Because of the visa problems I felt trapped. And that’s the feeling that I had throughout my whole childhood and teenage years. I just wanted to get out, beyond the control of lots of factors like religion, like tradition – things that I couldn’t change.

And so began the process of conception and creation of a collection whose pieces in some cases – such as the mini-pannier dress decorated with a universe of plaited locks of hair – took six months to realize. It came in four phases, characterized by Findikoglu as “trapped child,” “chained good girl,” “the funeral of Dilara’s own past,” and lastly “rebirth.” Layers of tulle were used to trap totemic elements. Upcycled vintage Victorian silk brocades were recast into bodices to reinforce the sense of a second life unfolding. Menswear jackets were worn, pulled down from the back and held at the wrist, as nearly cast aside shackles. A corseted look wrapped in vintage Union Jacks and topped with a crown of braids articulated Findikoglu’s transport to here. Coins and bells, emblems plucked from vintage Anatolian pieces, jangled on the runway as they passed. We knew that as there was no soundtrack, just a focusing silence as the models walked in the romantically destroyed rooms of a 19th-century hotel that will soon be demolished. A train made of old tailoring tugged and scratched against the puckered parquet and kicked up dust. There was a lot of dark sexuality – a lot of skin. “To me this comes from that feeling of being trapped,” said Findikoglu. “I want to take my burdens off: I feel strangled with modesty, I hate modesty, I want to destroy it.” Ghostliness and vivacity wrestled gorgeously together in a collection that was deeply mixed-up, and something of a classic.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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