ERDEM Pre Fall 2022

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For Pre-Fall 22, Erdem was inspired by the recent retrospective of Eileen Agar at the Whitechapel Gallery in London. Curated by Laura Smith, the exhibition was titled “Angel of Anarchy”. It brought Agar’s intriguing world to life with 150 artworks and objects that she created over the course of her prolific career that spanned eight decades of the 20th century. Though principally known as a surrealist, Agar defied convention, and it is her compellingly unconventional spirit that Erdem has sought to capture in the collection.
The period in focus here is Agar in the 1930s and 1940s. These were decades when the traditional quaintness of English life still hovered around the edges of more daring modernity. Agar encapsulated this dislocation. She was fascinated by nature, and she experimented by inverting and abstracting natural forms to become “mysterious”. She danced between controlled English politeness and sexual abandon, simultaneously.

“I have spent my whole life in revolt against convention, trying to bring colour and light and a sense of the mysterious to daily existence.” Eileen Agar

This juxtaposition heavily informs Erdem’s collection. We find it in the contrasting combination of prim knitwear paired with exuberant sequinned skirts. A demure English woven tweed skirt suit is enlivened with raw edges. Bookish, feather light knits are worn over floral print dresses with long tied scarves and playful asymmetric drop pearl earrings. Cashmere blend sweaters with a subtly incorporated bow detail at the neckline are combined with playful sun ray pleated skirts.

Agar’s artworks are an overt inspiration for a series of collage dresses, made from an expressive mash-up of colours, prints and motifs. Elements from her own wardrobe feature too, notably in blouses and shirts with pleated panels and ruffles. A geranium plant motif brings an innocent English garden moment to grown-up sweeping satin dresses; elsewhere, monochromatic polka dots introduce a surrealist graphic edge to cotton poplin and jacquard separates.

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Glamour and propriety are played with in varying ratios within the same outfits, in silhouette and textile, colour and detail: a burnt ochre dress in hammered satin is embroidered with sequins and has puffed sleeves and a high neckline. Pretty shirt dresses have strong shoulders, while a structured cloqué gown is softened with a dainty pearl and crystal trim around the sleeves and neckline.

Agar’s capacity to elevate everyday life into something more extraordinary is felt throughout the collection. Crystal and pearl-encrusted embellishments bring decorative sparkle to a pale frost-blue slip dress and duchess satin gowns, and small pearl flower motif buttons give the cuffs of knitted pieces a flash of elegance. There are sculptural garments too: cutwork and embroidered organza gowns with sequins have a shimmering three dimensional quality to them. Dresses and coats constructed entirely from handmade silk roses are like works of art.

The beauty and totality of Agar’s vision was remarkable. Surrealism wasn’t just a way of processing the horrors of the World War One, it was also a process of breaking with tradition, of imagining new realities. Agar – “in revolt against convention” – encapsulated the timeless tension between past and future.

ERDEM Pre Fall 2022

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