LONDON, United Kingdom — “Theatricality” is accusative in fashion. It’s cast as the enemy of “wearability.” But theatre was the whole point of Erdem’s intoxicating presentation on Monday morning. Showing in the derelict interior of the old Selfridge’s Hotel, he recreated a backstage set through which a procession of young “actresses” moved on their way to an audition. The designer imagined them grabbing an outfit from a nearby rack, recreating themselves, in the grand Hollywood tradition of the ingénue transformed by a lucky break, mirrored in the clip from All About Eve that was playing on Frederic Sanchez’s eerie, evocative soundtrack.
The faces on Erdem’s moodboard drew on three decades: Dietrich, Garbo, Gertrude Lawrence, Vivien Leigh and Lauren Bacall. So did the silhouettes: shift dresses from the 1920s, bias cut glamour from the 1930s, a little 1940s tailoring. Erdem’s own brand of modernism treated these nostalgic visions as elements that could be taken apart, then put back together his way, turned into players in a new narrative, his own. Erdem has made his own language of lightness, transparency, silvery florals, delicate embroideries and encrusted lace. He added new phrases, like the pieces shimmering with tinsel and silk fringing. The skirt, paired with a white angora sweater, was purest innocence, Joan Fontaine as Rebecca facing off against Judith Anderson as Mrs Danvers, in a lurex-shot black tweed suit.
Erdem’s scenarios have been getting grander as his career evolves. In that sense, his clothes are costumes. But they are not “costume-y.” There is a mad intensity in his work, a singular vision which infects beauty with an appreciation of the macabre. It feels eerily timely. Elizabeth Short, the Black Dahlia, was another of the ingénues on Erdem's mood board. Not every dream has a happy ending.