Monday 21st September

| BY Claudia Croft

Erdem: Ready-to-Wear SS21

One of the joys of this socially distanced, semi-digital London Fashion Week is getting one-on-one time with designers. Articulate, well-read and deft at storytelling, Erdem gives good appointment.

In the elegant, downstairs salon of his Mayfair boutique, he talked about lockdown. “We had to figure out how to make a collection,” explained the designer. When his usual fabric suppliers and manufacturers closed due to the virus, he sourced new UK suppliers and even moved into denim (his pretty floral printed A-line skirts bring a valuable new daytime option to his customers).

“We had to be agile. You either adapt or you don’t do it,” he says. It’s a picture of lockdown fortitude and creativity that is emerging all across London Fashion Week. And like many of his peers, Erdem is not giving up on beauty. “We live in such a strange, ugly time, it’s almost cathartic to be able to create something that felt beautiful. But I also feel the collection is in equal parts half a dream and half real.”

The dream comes in the form of empire-line muslin gowns with 18th Century floral embroidery or a pearl-encrusted mod suit – “because people will still get married and dinners will still happen,” he reasons. The reality comes in crinkled cotton poet shirts, floral denim pieces and practical knits to shrug over the finery. For SS21, his muse is Lady Emma Hamilton, as described in the Susan Sontag book The Volcano Lover. Sontag was drawn to Hamilton, the daughter of a blacksmith, who became a celebrated society beauty, married the British Envoy to Naples, Sir William Hamilton and fell in love with Lord Nelson.

Sontag’s book describes how Hamilton, her husband and her lover lived their lives in the shadow of an erupting Vesuvius and at a time when political systems all over Europe were subject to revolution and reset. “There was something so timely about that,” he explained drawing parallels with 2020 and the dual threats of Covid-19 and political upheaval. With a trip to Vesuvius off the cards, he filmed his models at a classical temple folly in Epping Forest. It’s not the same as putting on a show, but it gave him the creative outlet he needed. As to what people want from fashion now, he says: “It is about what motivates you to buy something and what you want out of that piece. I have always been fascinated by pieces that have a permanence to them. That more than ever feels relevant.”

Photographs courtesy of Erdem.