With a new gender-fluid “Cabaret” onstage now in London’s West End, and pandemic restrictions being loosened for good, Erdem Moralioglu tried to capture London’s new air of liberty, sending out a collection meant to telegraph a sense of abandon, subversion and dissolving boundaries.
He took inspiration from a group of unconventional female artists and photographers between the two world wars, and imagined them floating around a nightclub dressed in their own clothes, and men’s tailoring, as pianist Annie Yim performed works by Philip Glass in the center of the dark runway at Sadler’s Wells.
Models wandered around in sequin-pavéd dresses that clattered as they walked, or creased, sparkly styles that recalled the designs of Fortuny. Others were like living bouquets, dressed in chubby coats or long dresses made from tightly packed black or white rosettes.
Moralioglu also dressed his women in men’s clothing, such as nubby suits or tailored gray ensembles adorned with studs. He said he loved playing with “gender fluidity, watching the extremes of feminine and masculine coming together,” and looking at how men’s silhouettes change on a female body.
There was one big thing missing here: light. The designer was so intent on creating a “black box” and conjuring a darkened underground club that it was hard to tell what was what as the models walked around the dimly lit stage like stylish spirits from the underworld.
There were definitely a lot of sequins because they were so easy to hear, but the Fortuny-style crinkles, brushed mohair and lovely surface texture on the tailored jackets simply disappeared into the darkness, leaving the audience wanting at the end of this particular cabaret show.