If you haven’t heard Dilara Fındıkoğlu’s name, where have you been? The London-based Turkish designer hit the headlines in September 2017 following her controversial Satan-themed catwalk show at St Andrew Holborn Church during London Fashion Week. Since then she’s enjoyed a meteoric rise, dressing global super stars for the red carpet and gala events.
Described as ‘the designer of the future’ by Lady Gaga, her creations appeal to a broad range of stars: last November Rita Ora wore a red Dilara Fındıkoğlu dress for her album launch, while Madonna was dressed by the designer for her performance at this year’s Eurovision Song Contest in Israel.
Dilara first came to prominence in 2015, when FKA Twigs wore one of her kimonos. Her bold and unusual designs quickly found favour with stylists around the world, and her garments have graced the front covers of multiple top tier titles, including CR Fashion Book featuring Rihanna in 2016, and Time Magazine’s Game of Thrones cover with Lena Headey (Cersei Lannister) in 2017.
Madonna in custom-made Dilara Fındıkoğlu, Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv, May 2019
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Wow… Out of Words. Madonna in custom Dilara Findikoglu last night performing Like A Prayer on full moon. So many feelings, so many dreams, so many thoughts… thank you @eyobyohannes For always supporting me! And my incredible team who worked day and night to make this Dream come to reality. @wingwatson @evan__phillips @eloisehanikene @junn.zy @karlaotto @nataliacassel @carlscurrentmood 🖤❤️🖤❤️🖤❤️🖤 Girl Power!!!!! @madonna #joanofarc #freepalestine
The Istanbul-born designer doesn’t seem too fussed whether celebrities wear her clothes though. When Kanye West asked her to send an outfit to his wife Kim Kardashian, instead of creating something specifically for her, she just sent a ready-to-wear outfit to be polite: clearly Kim isn’t regarded as a natural fit for her quirky label.
The unapologetic fashion star-in-the-making knows her outlandish designs are not for everyone. In an interview with Vogue in 2016, she made it clear she wouldn’t change her style just to become more commercially successful:
“I just want to go my own way. There are loads of friends of mine who graduated at the same time and are making more wearable things and trying to reduce their embellishment and handwork, to be able to sell. I really want to sell, and I want to see my stuff on people as well, but I don’t want to lose the value of the garment. If you want to get something simple, you can go to the high-street brands and buy them, but if something makes it different, it has to stay like that.”
Dilara Fındıkoğlu’s first front cover ft. Rihann for of CR Fashion Book, Sept. 2016
It’s not surprising given that Dilara aspires to dressing alternative celebrities like Black Sabbath lead singer Ozzy Osbourne, hard rock provocateur Marilyn Manson, and Turkish trans diva Bülent Ersoy, who is renowned for her flamboyant fashion. Indeed, it’s fair to say that Dilara’s extraordinary stance has actually paved the way for her prominence.
She graduated from the world-famous Central Saint Martins in 2015. She came into spotlight with her student friends when they organised a guerrilla show for themselves and other design students who were not accepted to the school’s official press show to display their collections. They called their show #encoreCSM, which took place outdoors, receiving huge media attention as well as starting a debate about fashion education.
Interviewed by Dazed at the time, Dilara said she didn’t want to be dependent on any companies after her graduation. Instead she wanted to be independent to challenge the fashion industry’s shallow and superficial attitudes, which she continues to do.
Dilara & friends organise a guerrilla graduation show in 2015 after their college rejected their collections for its official press show, garnering significant press interest as a result
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Since launching her first collection in May 2016 and her debut London Fashion Week show in September of the same year, she has been forging her own path.
It is not a coincidence Hussein Chalayan is one of her favourite Turkish designers. Just like him, she uses the power of narratives in her collections. For example, she designed a striking wedding collection in 2018 that challenged all traditional norms to make people rethink about love. Dilara used a single girl in some photos to demonstrate love shouldn’t only be about two people, but also include self-love, as she told Vogue. It also fills a gap she’d noticed in the bridal industry that there were no wedding clothes for same-sex couples.
Lady Gaga in custom-made Dilara Fındıkoğlu
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In November, Dilara launched a project called The Dilara Revolution to ‘create things that inspire positivity and change in the world rather than just to sell and waste’, which she discussed in her interview with Another Magazine. To support the causes she believes in, she decided to make use of limited-edition pieces available for purchase in the weeks following her shows. For the first chapter of her project: Send Girls to School, she chose the ‘Belly Dancer Cone Bra T-Shirt’. A percentage of the sales from the piece goes to World Human Relief, a charity which works on the issue of child marriages and child sexual abuse.
Her Turkish heritage plays a part in some of her designs, such as the ‘Belly Dancer Cone Bra T-Shirt’, which includes the crescent moon. But she thinks it is shallow to use the tulip or tughra symbols, which she views as too cliché. Instead, she is more inspired by unorthodox narratives of her culture, such as jinn (spirits).
Dilara’s striking, Turkish-influenced Belly Dancer Cone Bra T-Shirt, whose proceeds she used to support charity World Human Relief
Although was scared, she felt close to the world of the jinn, which she first came across through Islamic mythology when she was little. This, combined with her interest in horror movies, saw her develop an admiration of the occult, which is reflected in her gothic fashion. She also likes to play with the narratives she grew up with of Turkish history. For example, she put men in harem clothes to question gender roles in one of her shows.
Her upbringing with traditional Turkish-Muslim parents has clearly influenced her character and fashion, driving her to be a rebel. Although she grew up in the metropolis of Istanbul, her family are from Kayseri, a conservative part of Turkey. She fought with them when she was a teenager just to be herself, wanting to dye her hair, have tattoos, and explore styles such as punk and gothic, which her family didn’t approve of. They wanted her to go to a technical university in Istanbul, and initially were not comfortable with the idea of sending her to the UK, but she managed to convince them she should go and study fashion.
Rita Ora in a Dilara Fındıkoğlu dress for her album launch Phoenix, Nov. 2018
Dilara really has come far since moving to London at the tender age of 19. She may only be 29 years-old, but she’s already proved her strong personality alongside her undoubted creative talents.
Next month, she features on schedule at London Fashion Week. It will be fascinating to see what she will do next…