Dilara Fındıkoğlu plays with your emotions like no other designer in London right now: she pulls on your heartstrings, makes you feel her pain, and conjures an intensity that makes you feel what she’s portraying in front of you. For autumn-winter 2023, the designer took her guests to a chapel in East London to display her latest collection, and it was a divine experience. While so much of the “Not A Man’s Territory” collection explored sexual tensions (and a pain related to this), there was also Fındıkoğlu’s usual amount of fetishization on display. Latex tights clashed with leather bursting at the seams, tightened together with clips and metal fastenings that intended to make us feel awkward. Likewise, models dropping their demure coverings revealed boned corsets and lingerie dripping in crystals, subverting opulence with the idea of something voyeuristic. Fındıkoğlu’s collections are impossible to not become fixated upon. Models stare into the eyes of the crowd, the heels hit the stone with a sharp sensuality, and performances of others clinging to walls or having a moment to themselves once again draw you in, but in a way that implies we shouldn’t be looking. This is Fındıkoğlu’s power, expressed through looks that also give her power. The most exceptional was the eveningwear. A dress made from black feathers à la Black Swan was powerful. A black satin gown covered in butter knives that curved around the breast and sculpted the hips alluded to finding one’s strength, as if the dress was Fındıkoğlu’s shield. Bravo.
Collage by Edward Kanarecki. Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!
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. Don’t forget to follow Design & Culture by Ed on Instagram!
Dilara Findikoglu is a designer who injects cultural commentary into each of her collections, having spoken out about climate change, women’s rights, marriage equality and gender disparity in recent seasons. For autumn-winter 2020, she’s speaking out for herself. Backstage, Findikoglu explained how events in her personal life led her into a deep introspection. She psychoanalyzed herself in this collection, christening her models into two sects: light Dilara and dark Dilara. The division didn’t exactly correlate to a color palette or silhouette, but was more about mood. As is her habit, each look was named. Here are some of the most brilliant looks: “Mother” was a blooming harness top in fuchsia with a red, slashed-away maxi skirt. “Self Destruction” was a viciously ruched dress that appeared on the runway on a model holding a white cat. “Borderline” was a ruched black bodysuit, “Insecurity” was strips of silver fabric with floral appliques worn with a bridal veil that came after “Future”, a similar ensemble cut out of blood red fabric. A crimson tweedy skirt suit with a logo belt was called “Gabrielle” (as in Chanel). “Enfant Terrible”, long-sleeved corset top with low-slung skirt, would work for day job goths, as would “Real World”, Findikoglu’s version of a business suit with pointed breasts darted into its vest and high-cut briefs stitched into the trouser. Pretty much always (if we aren’t speaking of anonymous, fast-fashion studios, of course) a designer’s collection is somehow autobiographical and personal, but in case of Findikoglu, this really blurs the lines between fashion and psychology.
Wether you’re thinking of a Bulgakovian witch sabbath at the top of the hill or of a medieval painting presenting hell full of sinners, Dilara Findikoglu‘s show-stopping garments certainly are for very bad, bad girls (and above all, for red-haired femme fatales à la the designer herself). For her autumn-winter 2017 collection, the Turkish designer went for anything that felt rebellious and bizarrely out-of-this-world at the same time. A tattered, worn-out-looking tartan coat held together by safety pins was a clear nod to punk; witchy symbolism and mystic illustrations present in embroideries covered Tudor-esque capes and semi-armors. Although Dilara has a soft spot for historic costumes – and especially their exaggerated silhouettes – she’s not interested in making glossy couture. Findikoglu rather sees her “new world order” clothes on a Marilyn Manson bride and bold characters, who are tempted by her truly unique aura. The models, transformed into fantastical female goddesses with horns and other charming oddities, looked as if they came out of a Hieronymus Bosch canvas. Exceptional.
Collage: Edward Kanarecki for Design & Culture by Ed. Images: Fernando Uceda / Lucie Rox / courtesy of Dilara Findikoglu.
Although fashion tends to misinterpret the term feminism, it’s good to know that in London, there are designers who can pull off the topic in the right way. Born and raised in Turkey, Dilara Findikoglu knows what it’s like to live in a place, where political and social stability is constantly on its verge of collapse. The frequently ignored problem of women’s rights, and how they are treated back in her homeland threatens Dilara, and intensely affects her creativity. As a teenager, the to-be designer discovered young John Galliano’s work in one of the glossy magazines – for her, that was the dream. Although the plan of studying at Central Saint Martins wasn’t appreciated by her relatives, Findikoglu already decided what’s good for her. So here she’s today – on everybody lip’s, yet far from mainstream (she dressed Lady Gaga and FKA twigs, yes, however she isn’t into going the easy path).
Findikoglu presented a mind-blowing presentation for her spring-summer 2017 collection back in September. In a very naughtily appropriate place I might say – a neon-lit Soho strip-club. Dilara’s model-friends (like the women’s rights activist, Adwoa Aboah) wore clothes that overlapped different decades and eras of both restraining and liberating womenswear: from Tudor sleeves and terribly tight corsets to very Vivienne Westwood SEX punk garments, this collection isn’t even a bit close to other brands’ outings that we’ve seen before. But the goal behind Findikoglu’s latest line-up wasn’t making a collage-like mix of historically significant clothes. “It’s about how women’s bodies have been treated in different societies – what they were wearing and what they were doing, what the limitations on them were.” While the models wore Victorian collars and PVC boots, it’s quite visible – the set, the one-of-a-kind pieces and the dominant colour of pink (all good girls wear pink, right?) weren’t all here by coincidence. Dilara enjoys messing up with stereotypes, and this brilliant collection suggests it’s the time of women. Make space for female power. These girls don’t care what you think of them, or whether you’re appealed by their feminine / perverse looks. If I would to choose a collection that colloquially ‘slays’, then Findikoglu’s gang tops the list.
Photographs by Frederico Ferrari and Lillie Eiger.