Saturday, 6 November 2010

Inspiration City - Part 1

For all the challenges of London, the benefits make it worth while. For a country girl used to viewing a cinema excursion as a rare treat and a trip up to London to visit an exhibition a monumental occasion, the novelty of having things to do is a precious one. On Thursday night I went to a talk with my favourite fashion designer, Erdem Moralioglu, at the Whitechapel Gallery where he was talking about the influences of art on his work. Now I certainly couldn't have done that back in Dorset.

Erdem has always inspired me. His designs promote quirky femininity and hold on to the ideal that fashion can be an escape and a dream.

"I love the idea of making someone as beautiful as one can look," he said at the talk, intently answering curator Kirsty Ogg's questions, his hands moving expressively and his eyes looking out earnestly from behind his trademark glasses.

As a child growing up in Montreal, watching Chanel couture shows on the television's french channel provided an escape from surburban life. Listening to the well-spoken Erdem describing his childhood; he and his sister growing up with the influences of their Turkish father and English mother, living in a leafy suburb with a lake at the end of the road, it was as if the child himself was sat before me, so vividly did he describe his early days.

It felt surreal to have someone I admire so intensely and who is so well-reputed within the industry, sat in front of me, sharing his memories and thought processes so openly. When someone is in the public eye and their life is so far removed from your own it is easy to forget that they are real people too, no different from you or me apart from perhaps their exceptional talent or vision. Erdem is very much a real person. Dressed in a moss green jumper, preppy trousers and black boots you could imagine bumping in to him in a library, or wandering through a gallery sketching ("I am an illustration based designer. I draw over 200 images of each garment in every collection").

Erdem was there to talk about the art work that holds a personal significance to him. Although he spoke more about his individual impressions of each image rather than the direct influence they have had on his work, many of his descriptions of the paintings and photographs could have just as easily have described his designs.
Peter Doig's 'White Canoe' conjured memories of the lake where Erdem lived as a child, whilst the deep, rich colours provided a more direct source of inspiration for his designs. "I love the idea of mixing colours that don't really go together".
This idea of wrong and right, and of contrasting ideas runs throughout Erdem's work, but also his selections of images. Erdem cited Ryan Mcginley as his favourite photographer, in particular his dynamic 'Hysteric Fireworks'. "The image is beautiful yet rebellious. It is liberating."

Beautiful yet rebellious - surely an apt description of the Erdem girl, and the sheer beauty and femininity of Erdem's designs are nothing short of liberating.
Erdem's latest collection was inspired by the Ballet Russes, therefore it is fitting that one of his design inspirations comes from Léon Baskt, painter and costume designer for Diaghilev's ballet. With the twisting, "diaphanous scarf" Erdem was drawn to the movement in this painting, and the sense of the movement of fabric is an important part of his work.
In Tina Barney's 'Matador' the contrast between the colours, textures and patterns in the image are reminiscent of the contrasts in Erdem's work, and the 'right and wrong' idea he talks about. However the choice wasn't purely about the fabrics: "We're half way through and I thought some people might be getting bored. I thought the handsome matador would be a welcome break." So, not only talented - Erdem has a sense of humour too.
Sergeant's 'Madame X' may seem an unlikely inspiration, as Erdem admits "I never do anything in black." But Madame X conjurs the same elegance and beauty as Erdem's designs and shows how his clothes are designed for women, to make women look and feel beautiful.
And finally, Erdem apologised for the cliché of a fashion designer citing Gustav Klimt as a design inspiration. "But I love the overt femininity, it is beautiful, liberating, free" he explained, going on to say that despite being created at the turn of the century, it still feels "fresh and relevant".

For me, nothing could be described as more fresh, relevant, beautiful and liberating than the work of Erdem Moralioglu.

At the end of the talk there was an opportunity for us to ask questions. Throughout the talk Erdem had talked about the creativity and buzz of London. After growing up and studying in Canada he moved to London to do an MA in womenswear at the Royal College of Art and is now based in East London, which he described as a "creative catalyst". (I was thrilled to learn that his studio, as well as those of a whole community of designers, is based in Bethnal Green where I live) I asked him, therefore, why he felt that London was such an important and unique fashion destination.

His answer made my day. "It's the universities." As I listened to my idol saying how the arts universities in London make it the city it is, I suddenly felt all the worries and uncertainties of the past few weeks float away. I AM in the right place.

I left the Whitechapel Gallery feeling completely inspired. Over the past few weeks I have let tiredness and stress get the better of me, and have given in to negativity. But Erdem opened my eyes. Yes I may have a lot of work, yes it may be difficult and stressful at times, but I should really just enjoy it. Because at the end of the day, I am in London, I'm at the London College of Fashion, and I'm studying something I absolutely love.

Life's not too bad really. :)


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