Photography: Eamon Freel
Styling: Patricia Villirillo
Text: Niall Underwood
The fashion world can offer you many different types of ‘friend’. There’s the ‘friend’ you run into twice a year at parties who never fails to insist that the two of you meet for drinks soon. There is the ‘friend’ you worked with once, three or four years ago. There is even the ‘friend’ you can barely stand the sight of, yet they like your posts generously on Instagram, so you loyally return the favour. However, there is also the friend with whom you can organise a sleepover, order a kebab and watch a film aimed at 10-14 year olds. I have only a few friends of this type, and one of them is an emerging designer named Dilara Findikoglu. Her designs manage to tell the story of a world that exists entirely within her imagination whilst exploring a very real cultural transition. Her silhouettes are unique, and the intricacy with which she embellishes each piece could occupy the eye for hours.
I stood at Dilara’s front door in torrential rain one January evening. As the door was flung open, I had a moment to glimpse a Comme Des Garcons harness and some high-heeled Laurence Decade boots in a black velvet with spatterings of gold paint. Dilara, already half way through a sentence, had disappeared into the kitchen to make us each a cup of strawberry tea. We settled ourselves in the living room on an antique sofa, which was also velvet and had been professionally cleaned three times (Dilara assured me of this – when I asked why she said ‘I wanted to make sure it was clean before I sat on it naked’) and so, we began.
Niall Underwood: When we met, you were in your second year at Central Saint Martins. Since then you’ve worked in Paris, New York and LA, graduated from your course and showed two exquisite collections of your own. What are the most important things you have learned?
Dilara Findikoglu: The most prominent thing I learned during my placement year is that the industry wasn’t how I imagined; I think it’s easy to lose yourself in fame or success. When I saw the hierarchical nature of fashion and how susceptible people can be to jealousy, I decided to make a conscious effort not to lose my values. It’s important to treat people fairly and equally, whether they’re your intern or your boss. It was refreshing to work for John Galliano on his first couture collection for Margiela, because there I saw an example of someone who treats every member of his team with respect. He’d sit with the interns and ask everybody’s opinion, which meant a lot to me as he’s always been one of my design heroes.
If you love what you’re doing enough, to the point where you can feel inspired by something as subtle as the way a fabric feels to touch, then you don’t need to get your kicks out of bossing people around.
You played a key role in the organisation of #encoreCSM. Could you tell us a little about the event, and about why so many people felt it was necessary?
I understand the competitive nature of the college and the pressure the students feel to make it into the press show. However, it’s important to remember that nobody is offered a place to study at CSM unless they have worked hard, and that nobody graduates from there unless they’ve continued to work hard. All of the students who graduated in my year put equal love into their collections and I feel that all of the students deserve the best possible chance to gain media attention upon graduation. The field of fashion is subjective, and although I respect just how well-informed the opinions of CSM’s tutors are, there is always a possibility that someone else may see something in a student’s work that they did not – #encoreCSM was about giving each and every graduate a good stab at success.
I think a lot of people do find the period that follows graduation an especially difficult time. Do you miss college?
I don’t see myself as a particularly good student. Of course I worked hard, but I always prefer to find my own way of doing things and to learn from my own mistakes. Graduation has been one of the most difficult and uncertain times of my life and there are still moments when I really worry about the future, but I try to keep in mind that this struggle is specific to this chapter and that I am learning a lot from it. I don’t necessarily see myself as a fashion designer, or even as part of the fashion world, so I think this a crucial stepping stone in the process of understanding the identity of my work.
One thing I often miss is the creative environment. Being surrounded by so many other creatives was fun and always inspiring – I look forward to the day when my studio can offer this!
Young designers travel from all corners of the globe to work in London; it is regarded as a positive hive of creativity. How do you feel London’s creative sector has welcomed you and your label?
In terms of fashion, London really is where everything starts. However, I don’t see my label ever becoming a British fashion house. I will remain London based as I love this city, but I don’t think my work is specific to it – I’d like it to be timeless and placeless.
One of the reasons London is a great place to start out in fashion is because of well-known platforms that exist here with the sole purpose of promoting young designers, but I think it’s important that the people responsible for selecting who receives this support need to remain open minded when it comes to showcasing international talent.
Although a lot of young designers move to London, not many move here from the Middle-East.
Was Turkish fashion to British fashion an easy transition to make?
Well, I moved to London at 19, so as far as fashion is concerned I feel I’ve done a lot of my growing up here. My work and I just didn’t fit in very well in Turkey. Speaking as a Turkish designer who lives and works abroad, I feel that Turkish fashion often lacks identity. In my opinion, the fashion industry in Turkey reflects the idea that the country sits on the cultural border between east and west, with designers and editors looking overseas for inspiration rather than putting their own cultural heritage into their work. There some exceptions to this – Hussein Chalayan is a prime example of a Turkish designer who has explored our culture in his work, although he still had to come to London to do it.
Another area in particular in which the UK differs from most Middle-Eastern countries is in its views on gender equality, to what extent do you feel your upbringing influenced the genderless-ness of your work?
Something that a lot of people have said is that my work has a lot of my personality in it. Although on the outside I’m typically feminine, I think my persona could be perceived as being quite masculine so it’s important to me that my work isn’t too ‘womenswear’.
If you could design a bespoke evening look for one person (dead or alive) who would it be?
Marlene Dietrich or Jimi Hendrix… or maybe Elizabeth I.
And if you were to have a bespoke evening look designed for you, who would design it?
You’ve talked before about the importance of sustainable fashion. What efforts would you most like to see being made by the fashion industry in 2016 to operate fairly and to reduce its carbon footprint?
It’s difficult, because as long as demand is there then the industry will produce enough to meet it. We live in a society that is obsessed with consumption, so the issue is cyclic. As a new designer, obviously I don’t have as much money as bigger brands so it would be convenient for me to have things made in places like India where production is cheap. However, I would hate to think that the people realising my ideas are doing so for $1 a day – so I will continue to work with companies who pay everybody a fair wage. Also, wherever I can use vintage fabrics and embellishments, I do. I just hate to see things going to waste – one of the biggest problems in this industry is how much of everything goes to waste, and that’s an issue that people at every level can address.
Finally, are we allowed a clue as to what 2016 holds for the Queen of Turkey?
I’m spending this season digesting what I’ve done; making sure I’ve completed this current body of work so that I am ready to move on. I found the process of #encoreCSM so inspiring that for next season I’d like to communicate my designs with an event which has a similar effect but in a different field. I think people have this idea that fashion is shallow, so it’d be nice to address some of the more pressing issues in the world. However, I see no reason not to look chic while I’m doing it.
Photography: Eamonn Freel
Styling: Patricia Villirillo
Hair: Rebecca Chang using Shu Uemura
Make-up: Philippe Miletto
Model: Eilidh Nuala Duffy
Photography assistant: Jackson Bowley
Styling assistant: Sofia Lai