dilara findikoglu wants to change the world
Meet the young Turk rebel concocting fantastical fashion for otherworldly dreamers and fairytale queens.
"I've always been interested in other dimensions," Dilara Findikoglu says, her eyes widening as she looks wistfully out of her studio window, "anything that allowed me to escape my reality." With her jet-black hair, porcelain skin, and wonderfully gothic all-black look, she resembles a fairytale queen of the damned. You almost fear she might burst into flames at the first glimpse of sunlight.
The 25-year-old London-based designer has been rebelling her entire life. When her traditional Turkish upbringing dictated how she should dress and act as a woman, she did the opposite and dressed like a man; when her parents told her she couldn't be a designer, she moved to London to become one; when Central St. Martins denied her a place in their highly coveted 2015 graduate press show, she staged a guerrilla style protest outside it. And now in the face of a world filled with borders and hatred, she's created an entirely new one: welcome to Planet Dilara.
Set in the sweltering hot library of Sir John Soane's Museum, to a soundtrack of Slayer's thrash hits, Dilara's autumn/winter 17 presentation was like something out of a Hieronymus Bosch painting, only turned upside down and inside out. Standing amidst some of Soane's most prized relics from the past, were a band of otherworldly figures plucked from a post-apocalyptic future. "War has decimated the world," the show notes read. "The planet hosts new species, new genders, and new religions. Cultures are mixed." This idea of multiculturalism is weaved into the very fabric of her collection. She mixes tartan kilts and heavy metal chain-work, Victorian dress and steam punk ephemera, while monastic imagery and signs of the Zodiac are tempered with references to Marilyn Manson. Dilara's signature tailored suit - usually in red velvet or pink pin stripe and covered in patches of beaded bleeding hearts and scientific renderings of the female sexual organ - was reimagined in white silk and had cloak like sleeves. Less empowered seductress and more feminine goddess. An already diverse cast was accentuated by dramatic hair and intergalactic make-up, while gender was further obscured with male models in dresses and girls in trousers suits. "I wanted to create a world without borders," Dilara explains. "A world where everyone is free."
Born into a strict Turkish family, Dilara has always felt at odds with her surroundings. A successful businessman, Dilara's father had high expectations for his children. The idea of his youngest daughter gallivanting across Europe trying to make it as a designer was not part of his plan. "He just saw me as this rebellious girl who wanted to do fashion, had tattoos, listened to weird music and dressed even weirder," she explains. While Istanbul is incredibly modern, Dilara's parents come from a different generation, one whose attitudes towards women can feel alienating. "I was always told that because I was a woman, I couldn't do this or that, couldn't go out by myself," she recalls. "The first time I really felt free was when I kissed a boy. It was only later, when I was exposed to the media that I realised the things I was fighting for were feminism."
Fashion became Dilara's escape. In fact, her very first creative expression was an act of defiance; she was only two-years-old when she started sketching the outlines of female figures on the living room wall, much to her parents' dismay. As a teenager Dilara never fitted in, simply because she didn't want to. Dressed in the classic rebellious teen outfit of Vans, band T-shirts and baggy shorts, her style was informed by her taste in artists like Good Charlotte, Avril Lavigne, and Eminem.
As well as expressing herself through her personal style, she was also starting to make her own clothes, creating bows out of ribbons to sell to her friends, and customising anything she could get her hands on. "It was only when I was making clothes that I felt I could truly be myself," she says. "I became known in school as the fashion girl. It was my identity." Designing clothes was so intrinsic to her being, that she felt there was nothing else she could do with her life, and the only way to make it was to leave home. "They just thought I was running away, they didn't know that I was planning to go to London to create a business." That year she moved to London and enrolled at CSM.
Life in east London was a breath of fresh air. Dilara spent her days immersed in photography books and her evenings at the Joiner's Arms with a crew of cool young creatives, like designer Mimi Wade and photographer Louie Banks. The excitement of the new and the rawness of their untouched creativity was palpable. However, things soured when Dilara wasn't picked for the 2015 graduate press show. "I've been fighting for things my entire life," she says, defiantly. "I put so much love and work into that collection. I came to London to follow my dreams, then someone told me, 'No'. I don't think so". Dilara responded by rallying up some fellow rebels and staging an alternate presentation in the CSM courtyard. As photographers, writers and editors spilled out of the press show, they were confronted with a group of warriors wearing Dilara's heavily embellished chaps and Turkish print jackets. It seemed to do the trick, as #encoreCSM was all anybody could talk about, but the fight for recognition didn't end there.
After rejections from various fashion platforms, she was taken on by London PR maverick Ella Dror in January 2016. Since then everything has clicked into place. Off the back of her graduate collection she was tapped by Kanye West's team to work on Yeezy Four; she's now stocked at Selfridges, her clothes are adored by everyone from Rihanna to Lady Gaga, and she's just launched a line of official Marilyn Manson merch. Just last month it was announced that she'd been longlisted for the 2017 LVMH Prize, alongside fellow Londoners Molly Goddard and Charles Jeffrey.
"I don't want to be just another designer," she concludes. "I want to create something entirely new that goes beyond making clothes. I want to change the world." In an industry saturated by sameness, designers like Dilara, who don't play by the rules, are like diamonds in the rough, and they shine all the brighter.
Text Tish Weinstock
Photography Tim Walker
Styling Max Clark
Hair Alex Brownsell at Streeters using Bumble and bumble. Make-up Lucy Bridge at Streeters using using Chanel Les Indispensables de L'Été and Chanel Blue Serum. Hair assistance Freddie Leubner. Models Cheyenne at Milk. Ali Michael at Next. Isabel Alsina at Nevs. Sadie Pinn. Dora Teymur. Harley Almond.
Dilara and all models wears Dilara Findikoglu.