Uniforms of Another World

Fashion designer Dilara Fındıkoğlu on OMM and searching for the light in Anatolia

Credits: Ali Gülşener

Turkish-born, London-based designer Dilara Fındıkoğlu has been making waves ever since she graduated from Central Saint Martins in 2015—exeunt with a guerilla show she co-organized with fellow students, nothing less. Enchanted by couture, her multi-layered, otherworldly and bold designs have since been worn by an impressive list of luminaries, among them Madonna and Rihanna.

The making and breaking of myth is prominent in Fındıkoğlu’s designs; Mesopotamian figures often appear alongside Christian religious iconography. The uniform collection she designed for OMM – Odunpazarı Modern Museum marks two firsts for the designer: It is her first collaboration with an art institution, and the inspiration for this new work came solely from Anatolia, a land she describes as “matriarchal with a very pure and intense energy.” With the OMM collaboration, Dilara Fındıkoğlu sets out to create uniforms of another world, an imaginary Turkish space station, a new planet in the future.

OMM: How did your paths first cross with OMM?

Dilara Fındıkoğlu: I met İdil Tabanca at BULLETT magazine. I was a student back then; my friend Asya Çetin and I had made a few photo shoots for the magazine, and we had met in New York. After she started working on the museum project, we talked over a meal about the works to be created for the museum. When I first heard about the museum from İdil, I was excited. I think that OMM will be a project which will transform Turkey. Young creatives in Turkey are often worried that they won’t have a platform where they can exhibit their work unless they expand overseas. OMM will be a place where talented artists can share their work with

the world without having to find representation overseas. In that sense OMM will not only provide
a good opportunity for the young artists, but also contribute to a shift in the world’s perception of Turkey.

OMM: What was your starting point for the uniforms, or rather the collection, you designed for the museum?

DF: We may conceive of the pieces I prepared for the OMM as uniforms of another world. I imagined the museum as a space station in Turkey, and I designed the pieces as if I were designing costumes for a movie. I am curious about the public’s reaction.

OMM: In your previous designs the Mesopotamian mythology is prominent, whereas here we see pure Anatolian motifs with Cybele and Medusa.

DF: I generally strive to combine what I see in Europe with elements of my own experiences in Turkey. This project is in Turkey, so I inclined much more intensively towards materials from our own land. There is so much material in Turkey that

I did not want to combine them with anything else. Another source of inspiration was Anatolia as a matriarchal society. At present the Turkish society may seem to be patriarchal, but when we go back in time we come across many female figures and also symbols representing women such as earth and crescent. For us, gender equality is not something adopted from the West.

One of the motifs I have used, Medusa of the Basilica Cistern
in Istanbul is one of the most prominent feminist symbols. In that story line, the woman, in all her power and potency is monsterized. She gets decapitated, her voice taken away with that act of decapitation. To me, she symbolizes the silencing and opression of women, which is present to this day.

Many may believe that Turkey is a swamp, but I see hope and future in our country. With the attires I design, I try to depict both Turkey and the future I dream of.

OMM: I know that your collection has also been inspired by real life figures, including a heroine of Turkey’s War of Independence, Corporal Nezahat.

DF: I feel like whenever important stories get told, only men are talked about, and women are forgotten. While I designed the collection, I wanted to draw from real women such as Corporal Nezahat, Halide Edip and Kara Fatma in addition to symbols. Corporal Nezahat is extremely inspiring for me. The “most important” role American women could play in war often consisted of being nurses. Pin-up girls were encouraged so that men at the front could be motivated, Marilyn Monroe went to Vietnam to boost the soldiers morale... However, in the Turkish War of Independence, men and women fought side by side: women were never elements of “entertainment.” I wanted to incorporate this into my work.

“I feel extremely enthusiastic about this museum created by the energy here, which I believe will resound abroad as well.”
— Dilara Fındıkoğlu

OMM: Your collections always bear traces of society and of religion, your couture pieces reflect the dimness of a temple. What do you see when you look at Anatolia through these windows?

DF: I named my previous collection, “May the Darkness Light the Way.” Anatolia is where human history started; it has a very pure and intense energy. At the same time since it has experienced many invasions and since it is the land from which religions have emanated, it has a very tough aspect.

Throughout history, guardians
of darkness have accused and punished intellectuals, those who brought new ideas to these lands, only to proclaim their sainthood after a few centuries. I want people to realize things before centuries lapse, I want goodness and light to emanate without any loss of time.

To go back to Anatolia, I feel extremely enthusiastic about this museum created by the energy here, which I believe will resound abroad as well.

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