#SuzyLFW: The Lure And The Weight Of History

She was part of a brave new woman’s world – courageous, individual and determined. Princess Orietta Doria Pamphilj bore that name as the only child of her noble Roman father. The first sight of her at the Erdem show was a slender figure walking between the historic portraits at London’s National Portrait Gallery.

The designer was in familiar territory: a museum. And with it came a complex back story for Erdem to chew on – courageous women, plucked from the past, as the designer has done before.

“This collection was about the idea of that moment in 1963 when the aristocratic Italian woman was leaving Rome and coming to London – that contrast between aristocracy and what was happening in London – the social change,” Erdem explained.

“And especially of the hemlines coming up, so you went from these nipped, controlled silhouettes below the knee to things that became shorter.”

“Everyone thought she was going to become a nun and she wasn’t ever going to be able to continue the lineage,” the designer says of Princess Orietta.

“I think there was something about the idea of that kind of tremendous weight one must carry in continuing a lineage.”

Erdem’s historical story sounded even more dense and complex, as he spelt out the ancestry of a complex family, while the collection itself looked like yet another play on history.

Whereas previous collections from this imaginative storyteller had seemed charming and engaging, this one was tougher to digest.

The show opened with a mumsy green coat with black embroidered flowers and a black hat. Although there was plenty of brightness in the collection, with displays of pink and white checks, the overall effect was gloomy. Vast black bows hung from the neck, or dark veils covered dresses as if for mourning.

Others were more cheery, with their vivid colours, but full-skirted dresses looked frankly old-fashioned.

There were many worthwhile pieces, and often interesting decoration. But surely it is time for the designer to get out of the museum as a backdrop for his shows and make more of his often enchanting clothes in the light of day.