Erdem today delivered a collection that was thrilling from beginning to end. The venue was the King’s Cross Theatre with its section of railway track embedded in the stage and the show opened in half darkness behind black gauze curtains as a wagon loaded with girls in Edwardian-style dress rolled in. It was ghostly and spooky and pointed to a narrative that had a chilling historic truth at its heart.
Erdem loves an unhinged woman (see previous collections) and this time his imagination had been captured by Prairie Madness, a condition diagnosed in mid-19th Century America amongst women living in the mid-west. Sufferers were victims of one of those cruel pieces of misogynistic legislation that defy belief. The 1862 Homestead Act entitled single women to own 160 acres of land – if they lived on their own on their property for five years. The damaging effect this had on the minds of those who accepted this kind offer will come as no surprise.
Erdem took that material and out of it stitched something beautiful. He imagined the personal effects that one of these women might have taken with her as comforts – ‘her crocheted dress, her cameos, a sampler of embroidered strawberries’ and they became the essence of the sensational long dresses and coats – and they were almost all long – he created for her.
Over the last few seasons the number of designers borrowing from medieval and Victorian dress has become familiar. But nevertheless it is stunning that Erdem can show a collection of dresses influenced so strongly by the Edwardian era and make it seem desirable and relevant and something you could wear with trainers (although those pointed cameo flat sling backs? They’ll do too).
Yes, some looks were evening gowns – his three final frayed layered silk organza gowns were oddly similar to dresses show by Roksanda in the previous show – but all the looks were frilled, ruffled, highly romantic and evocative of another era.
The secret to them being wearable and modern was perhaps in their lightness – many pieces were unlined – and the simplicity of some of the ‘poor’ fabrics he used for them – cotton and ticking, and a fabric made to look like hessian – although they came beautifully embroidered.
Like last season, Erdem also reversed and frayed his fabric. He decided to rip open the covered buttons that ran over the seams of some of the dresses exposing the shoulders. The effect was undone – another buzzword of the last two seasons.
We are becoming frayed, dishevelled, somehow less precious about clothes, while at the same time the clothes with their increasingly couture techniques and extravagant fabrics are becoming more precious. We’re living in interesting fashion times. And the dresses are just fabulous.