Erdem‘s spring-summer 2023 collection captured an important moment in time. The last moments of the show – three models walking, their faces and full-skirted ball gowns fully veiled in black tulle – felt like a page being inscribed in the annals of British fashion history. This was a show on the eve of the state funeral of a monarch who had reigned for 70 years. This finale, slowly walked through the grand colonnades of the British Museum, did indeed feel like a dignified, loving farewell to Queen Elizabeth, from a fashion designer who has researched and referenced her long before now. Looking at history and being a museum, gallery, and library geek is totally Erdem Moralioglu’s modus operandi. His first show was in the V&A. He’s had a long relationship with the National Portrait Gallery. He spends days in the London Library. And actually, this collection—as he explained afterwards – had to do with his fascination for the behind-scenes work of museum conservators. “It’s so funny, because I started the collection research here at the British Museum actually, and taking the design team to look at how they were restoring 17th century etchings; or how they might deal with restoring a tapestry or a Dutch Master.” At the V&A, he was inspired by seeing the crinolined structures the conservators built to slowly, painstakingly put the decaying fragments of an 18th century gown back together – and by the dust-sheets they use. And by happenstance, those dust-sheets were already translating themselves into the veils he wanted to show. “It was this idea of, if you study an object or dress so closely, over such a long time, do you start to become that thing?” A romantic, vaguely crazed projection of ideas onto imagined characters: this is Erdem all over. It produced all the kinds of sweeping shapes, prints, and embellishments his customers love: a grand sweeping trench-ballgown with a train, the appearance of fraying hems, a touch of antique-contemporary undone-ness. There is a lot to think about in Britain about the passing of an era. But then again, as his work – and the existence of all the British museums proves – the momentous significance of the past is never gone.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki.
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