#SuzyLFW: Erdem’s Royal Story
Fit for a Queen! Or in the case of Erdem’s show, The Queen – Her Majesty Elizabeth II of the not-very-United Kingdom.
Even before seeing the portrait necklines and brocade dresses, the audience could hear in the show music the high, thin tones of the 1950s upper class. Whether it was a real recording of the royal voice or taken from a film, it had a piquant effect, as did the other player in Erdem’s mind. That was Duke Ellington, who met the royal as a young woman and dedicated a piece of music to her called “The Queen’s Suite”.
Erdem’s penchant for the past brought into the broken-down space a grand piano, gilded palm trees, banqueting chairs and cocktail glasses. But for a designer who is always steering between past and present, this was a show that kept to that fine line.
The skill was to take an element from fashion history – say one of those curvy necklines held together with flat velvet bows – but team that with a just-over-the-knee hemline on a narrow dress. Another was to take a tweedy fabric and shape it to trace the body.
“The tailoring felt really important, with a lightness,” said Erdem. “It felt like a sense of optimism, using her tweeds, and imagining that something has been taken off.”
Whether or not the designer was dreaming of dressing the young Queen Elizabeth, it was that mix of past and present that worked, although Erdem himself seemed more intrigued by historical elements after working with the curator of the royal collections and visiting Windsor castle to study gowns made by royal couturier Norman Hartnell.
Back to the elegant evening outfits and especially the brocade dresses glimmering with flowers.
“I love the idea of this kind of wonderful exchange between two people, and Duke Ellington even wrote a poem for her,” the designer said. “This collection imagines them all coming to the Cotton Club, or maybe Dorothy Dandridge (an African-American performer) coming to Buckingham Palace. It’s about an exchange between two very different places; something that felt quite regal but also quite undone.”
This concept of loosened ties and the subtle effect of the half undone is not new to Erdem’s shows. But whereas previous inspirations had come from the Edwardian era, this collection included tweedy coats and kitten-heel, sling-back shoes from the 20th century.
How convincing is Erdem with day clothes? He has a wide customer base, not least in his London store, which serves as an atelier. But the appeal may be more for the drape and sparkle of the cocktail hour onwards.
The show was something of a period piece. But charming with it.