‘What, no florals?’, everyone must have wondered when Erdem’s first look—a sheath dress and jacket in python and iceberg blue—made its entrance.
Sure, there was lace alongside the snakeskin, but not in a way we had seen before. Sweetness met deadliness in this collection. In so doing, it shifted the reputation of a designer associated with pretty dresses in a very intriguing way.
The show space set the scene. A geodesic dome in the middle of Manchester Square felt like a civilised spacecraft that had alighted in poshest Marylebone. Models made their circuits around it in every manner of gorgeous dress shape. A-line skirts, soft lampshade dresses (some with triangular voids over the ribcage) and strict pencil shapes were remade in patchworked python, lace and re-embroidered organza.
When other colours entered, they came as amoebic, soft-edged prints; manic, 3D fluoro florals and ‘toxic pastels’, to borrow the designer’s terminology. The colours and their uses were beautiful but far from placid. They suggested that no matter how insistently cheerful the woman in the dress may have seemed, something was off-kilter. You got the sense that at any second, she might explode.
Backstage, Erdem took a break from greeting the longest queue of well-wishers ever to tell us about 1950s writer Zenna Henderson, a teacher by day and pioneering science fiction author by night. ‘She wrote about aliens coming to earth,’ he said. ‘I was inspired by the idea of these women landing.... [and] trying to blend in,’ without ever fully succeeding in their attempts to conceal their alien/reptilian nature.
‘I liked the idea of this etherealness that has come to take over, divide and conquer,’ he added.
No need to divide and conquer here—this audience would have eaten out of Erdem’s hands. At one point during the show, the power failed and cut out the music and lights, a fault for which the designer repeatedly apologised backstage. He needn’t have worried. These clothes sang, all on their own.