Bora Aksu’s “Dear Birsen” collection was a coming-of-age tale inspired by his mother’s letters when she sent him to boarding school at age 13. A romantic proposition if there was any but what particularly intrigued Aksu was in fact the restrictions and codes – both of dress and behaviour – that inevitably impose themselves on the journey from innocence to adulthood.
The opening looks unfolded the chronic schoolgirl dichotomy of uniformity and rebellion: tidy collars and below-the-knee skirts customised with leather sleeves or mesh see-through layers. The styling was on point too, with tight rope-braids and sandals with traditional Turkish embroidery worn over black ankle socks adding colour to Aksu’s story without defaulting to the literal. While the theme seemed slightly matter-of-fact for London’s household sombre romanticist, the schoolgirl element did introduce a sense of lightness that felt fresh for Aksu, particularly when the collection moved into baby pink ensembles of butter-soft leather and lace. The move to more slouchy silhouettes and roomy skirts with pockets conjured teenage nonchalance while the insertion of pony hair, leather and corduroy panels continued Aksu’s study into texture and tactility.
Eventually the collection drifted into grown-up territory but not without (perhaps thematically fitting) stumbling several times in its effortful pulling of different fabrics together. The white brocade mesh glittered rather crudely, while the stitching together of lace and leather felt forced and overused, and resulted in several looks appearing frankly crumpled and proportionally gone wrong. It seemed like many of the valuable lessons from last autumn’s palate cleanser of a collection have been forgotten, especially when it came to skirts and jackets stitched up in 3 or 4 different heavy fabrics and sporting twice as many design elements, dragging down entire looks unnecessarily. It is perhaps that Aksu’s critical distance was fogged by his personal closeness to the subject matter; a forgivable circumstance, considering the dramatic potential of the final looks.
The climax was undoubtedly an oxblood Grand Dame cape that created a classic show-stopping moment – literally, as the sound hushed and the flickering of a swarm of camera shutters lasted for the longest time as the Aksu girl stood high and mighty in front them - all grow up, as the narrative tempts us to say. Along with the finale gowns, it made a symbolic statement of the collection’s reach to maturity, and a fitting finale of the designer’s otherwise experimental vibe this season.