Inspired by Islamic mythology and blood-splattered Italian horror movies, Turkish designer Dilara Findikoglu’s fantasy world has crystallised in clothing form. The Central Saint Martins graduate creates otherworldy outfits for punk succubuses and goth queens; conjuring up corpse bride gowns and razor-cut psych-rock suits that fizz with magic and glamour. Staged inside a church, against a towering set of alchemical symbols and featuring horned drag star Violet Chachki, her Spring/Summer 2018 collection was a London Fashion Week highlight – it was also promptly condemned by outraged Christians. But, far from a shock-tactician, Findikoglu is on a mission to enlighten her generation. So, who is the woman behind the sartorial witchcraft? A week away from unveiling her A/W18 collection, Findikoglu’s North London studio is pandemonium. Sat next door, behind a desk in an eerily empty conference room, the designer is in full boss mode. A flick of her Vampirella hair and she is ready to begin...
You have created an entire world for yourself. What was its origin?
I created it when I was a child because I wanted to get away. I didn’t like what Islam was, I didn’t like what religion was, so I thought, ‘This can’t be the real life, it’s so boring.’ I read fantasy books like Harry Potter, The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia when I was in primary school and middle school, and started watching horror movies when I was in high school. Cannibal Holocaust was one of the first ones I watched. And I was a big fan of Dario Argento, his films really inspired my world a lot.
“In Islam, they tell you about an unknown world, the world of spirits... I was scared of this world but, at the same time, felt close to it” – Dilara Findikoglu
Why are you so attracted to horror?
For me, it started with religion. In Islam, they tell you about an unknown world, the world of spirits – they’re called jinn in Arabic – and these creatures that live in other dimensions. I was scared of this world but, at the same time, felt close to it. I used to wish I was psychic so I could discover more about it.
What’s your relationship with the occult?
I’m fascinated by magic and alchemy. In alchemy, the symbols are amazing. My favourite alchemist is called Count St. Germain. Last season, one of my characters was named after him. He first appeared in the 18th century in his 40s, this nobleman who knew about everything. He’s a scientist who does alchemy. He appeared 30 years later and people said he looked exactly the same. He appeared at two more points in history and again, people said he looked the same. Some people believe he’s still alive today.
“Obviously I like occult symbols, but I didn’t use them because I like doing satanic rituals! That’s not what the show was about” – Dilara Findikoglu
Your Spring/Summer 2018 show was labelled a ‘Satanic orgy’ by some Christian groups. What was it really about?
Obviously I like occult symbols, but I didn’t use them because I like doing satanic rituals! That’s not what the show was about; it was about the illusion of the life that we’re living. You are born, you study, you get a job, you get married, you have children and die, and this is what you do. It’s so mechanical. This collection was about this illusion. I divided it, the world, into seven groups: Believers, Rebels, Thinkers, Politicians, Leaders, Royals and Gods. When they come together, they create the illusion. I wanted to encourage people to see outside the bubble they’re living in. I’m fighting to awaken people.
How do your clothes help awaken people?
I’ve always tried to balance deep ideas with beautiful garments, and this is a way of awakening people. If people are interested in wearing my garments, then maybe they’ll want to know more about them and find out about new ideas. But even if you don’t find out about the ideas, the clothes still have to fit nicely. I want to look good in my clothes and I think that’s the key to making them. Valentino said, ‘I know what women want. They want to be beautiful’ – and he was right.
Out of the seven groups, which one best represents you?
I’m the thinker. I think a lot and I’m trying to find new ways to change things. I also want to live nicely because we’re going to die. Though I don’t want to die; I want to be like Count St. Germain and find the elixir of life and live forever.
Why do you want to live forever?
So I can discover more; go to other planets, discover new species. There’s a lot of things I want to do. Maybe my time isn’t enough.
HAIR David Harborow at Streeters using Bumble and Bumble MAKE UP Laura Dominique at Streeters using Givenchy LeMakeUp MANICURE Adam Slee at Streeters using Rimmel London SET DESIGN Miguel Bento at Streeters PHOTOGRAPHIC ASSISTANT Teddy Park, Matt Reay DIGITAL TECHNICIAN Liz Mooney STYLING ASSISTANTS Jordan Duddy, Aurora Burn, Lauren Perrin, Katie Macpherson