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Her references range from the 18th century to the 1970s and in her collections she explores themes such as queer, feminist theory and climate change. Dilara Findikoglu’s personal universe makes her one of the most exciting designers of recent years. We take a look at her career following the launch of her latest collection, SS20.
An avid collector, both her home and her studio in London are small museums where Dilara Findikoglu treasures all kinds of vintage clothing and accessories, books, music, posters, figures… Her tendency to collect is not only limited to objects, but also crystallizes in her collections, which merge and make references to different decades simultaneously. From Victorian shirts to western suits, heavy metal, glam, punk or gothic subcultures, Findikoglu’s collections are not just mere style exercises, but also studies the ideologies and history of the past eras from which she draws inspiration. Beyond making a kitsch catalogue of different historical periods, Findikoglu decontextualises and resignifies all these references, giving way to its characteristic knot of anachronisms. Based in London and of Turkish origin, her designs also transcend the imaginary of the East and the Muslim world.
Corsets, embroidery, satins and tulles vs. leather and vinyl, buckles and safety pins, the deconstruction of classic clothes, and black and red, are recurring elements in her creations. Her work on the garments, her mastery of tailoring and the theatricality of her collections are on a par with 90s John Galliano or Vivienne Westwood. The similarities are not coincidental. Galliano is one of her gurus and teachers, the reason why she decided to leave her native Istanbul and move to London to study at the same school as the designer, the renowned Central Saint Martins, and for whom she worked as a trainee when he was going to take over the reins of Maison Margiela. The attitude and references she shares with the lady of punk need not even be mentioned.
Dilara Findikoglu FW20
She presented her FW20 collection last February at London Fashion Week, and she’s just launched her SS20 collection online. A percentage of sales are destined for the Artists and Freelancers Hardship Fund. She explained in her Instagram that, as an emerging designer, she felt obliged to support younger creators and freelancers in a precarious situation due to the decline in orders during the quarantine. Findikoglu uses fashion as reivindication and her work explores issues of social relevance, loaded with feminist, religious and political iconography and symbolism. Indeed, these issues are not only present in her creative process and are applied in her designs in an abstract way. On many occasions they are expressed very directly: in the SS20 collection, the phrase “Send girls to school” can be read on a dress, and Marlene Dietrich, icon and empowered woman, is printed on a sweatshirt, accompanied by the word “Witch” above it.
As Steff Yotka says for Vogue Runway, the decorum of the corset era that inspired Findikoglu belonged to silenced and subyugated women. Quite the opposite of the women she designs for or the type of woman she represents. Not being chosen to present her collection at the graduation fashion show by the Central Saint Martins committee, she refused to pass up the opportunity and presented her collection along with other students in a guerrilla show, the #encoreCSM, which as a result attracted much more press than expected. She soon made her debut with the SS18 collection at Saint Andrews Holborn Church, with controversy included, as the set contained religious and Masonic elements, described as Satanic by some sectors.
Establishing her brand by leaps and bounds in the very competitive scenario of the English capital, recognition soon followed. In 2017 she was a finalist for the LVMH prize, the most prestigious recognition for new talent. Her personal universe and rich range of historical and musical references earned her the reputation of being one of the most different and exciting new designers on the European scene in just a few years. Her collections have gradually conquered the catalogues of the best retailers on the continent. From Dover Street Market, to Luisa Via Roma or Selfridges, her collections prove to be more than catwalk Couture exercises, keeping in touch with the commercial reality of the business.
Collaborations soon followed. A merch collection for Marilyn Manson or an editorial for Rihanna among others were worth to finish catapulting the brand. Since then, Bella Hadid, Lady Gaga, Madonna, FKA Twigs, Beth Ditto, Rita Ora or Sita Abellán are some of the other names that have also dressed her creations in red carpets and stages.
Whether it’s reinventing the corset, mixing Elizabethan collars with metal band T-shirts, or bringing punk and the occult to the catwalks, Dilara Findikoglu certainly manages to make the world a more complex and interesting place, stylistically speaking. Her proposal is what fashion needs right now: escapism and theatricality. More is always more.