Erdem x Royal Ballet
Unostentatious designs was the order of play, as fashion designer Erdem Moralioglu's costumes for the Royal Ballet are revealed.
Editor Michael Peter Johnson reports on the highly anticipated costume designs by London fashion designer Erdem Moralioglu and acclaimed Iranian-British designer Shirin Guild.
Leonard Bernstein was a remarkable composer. His range of musical styles, repertoire and energy for collaboration was boundless. From his work with Stephen Sondheim on West Side Story to other commissions throughout his career, Bernstein was constantly influencing others artists. To commemorate the centenary of Bernstein’s birth Kevin O’Hare, Royal Ballet’s artistic director commissioned two new works by Wayne McGregor and Christopher Wheeldon alongside Liam Scarlett’s Age of Anxiety from 2014.
For Wayne McGregor’s new work, Yugen set to Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, McGregor invited designer Shirin Guild to collaborate on the costumes. In Yugen Guild’s Iranian influences and minimalist aesthetics are obvious and deeply intrinsic to her beautiful tailoring. Hues of deep reds and rusty oranges offer an earthy colour palette; so earthy in-fact the fabrics are dyed from sourced Iranian vegetables. Similar to McGregor, Guild’s preoccupation across her career has involved establishing different and new approaches to designing for the body. Guild continues to make her own materials by blending properties like cashmere, stainless steel, bamboo, pineapple and even paper.
Harem style trousers and widened vest tops are cut with care, perfectly partnering the dancers emotive gestures and journeys through the musical landscape. The shape of the trousers are also memorable in static poises. These are sophisticated costumes that compliment the physicality of McGregor’s compelling choreography. Guild has also designed with awareness and consideration to artist and life-long friend, Edmund De Waal’s large-scale poetic set designs.
Following his sell out H&M collaboration and hailed as one of London’s most favoured designers, Erdem Moralıoğlu is in demand from the high street to the world’s stages. Erdem’s womenswear collections are always enchanting. Since launching his own label in 2005, Erdem has built a brand from his own intuition, skill and artistry. His collections surround notions of art, modernity and vibrance. In Christopher Wheeldon’s latest ballet work, Corybantic Games quintessential features of Erdem are proposed in modest ways.
Decorative edging of black velvet ribbon trim and criss-cross over the ever- taught torsos of the dancers. The velvet ribbons are a clever balance used effectively on both masculine and feminine physiques. In the seemingly simple construction of the garments references of Trojan warriors or Grecian goddess leapt to mind. Trimmings flapped, unfurled and fell where dancers limbs once flourished. Faster paced choreography allowed them to leave brush-like strokes against Jean-Marc Puissant’s elegant and evocative set design. The thrill of the frill became an additional dynamic to follow, but became too distracting en-mass.
Modern corsets - custom made to each female dancer - were spilt in two at the waist, allowing for more freedom and suppleness in the torso. These designs were a refreshing twist to the usual leotard staple, seen in most neoclassical works. In the opening section to the work, designs incorporated traditional long tulle pleated skirts over champagne satin bottoms- a look reminiscent of Degas paintings. For the men, greyish full length tights met with flesh coloured mesh vest tops. Again thick black ribbon was used to garnish muscular chests and hung over shoulders like romantic epaulettes.
Designing for the stage involves many factors different to the conventional fashion show production cycle. Conveying a story together with the whole creative team and maintaining a creative dialogue is key. Time restraints, durability of the costumes for the shelf-life of a show and tight schedules for both design houses and dance companies all makes for challenging collaborations.
Missing in were more striking or theatrical variances of the soloist’s and principle’s designs amongst the corps de ballet. Unlike a typical fashion week collection - where over 20 looks are the norm - in Corybantic Games, Erdem has given us a couple of slight deviations from the core outfit. The potential for more embellishment or nuanced silhouettes on the dancers is abundant. Elegance, simplicity and unostentatious designs was the order of play, which allowed for interesting inter-play with the colourful set and lighting. Perhaps as the choreography shifts with each musical movement, greater distinctions between the dancers costumes throughout Bernstein’s lyrical score of Serenade (after Plato’s Symposium) may have taken Corybantic Games, into a league of its own.
Choreography by Wayne McGregor
Costume by Shirin Guild
Set by Edmund de Waal
Lighting by Lucy Carter
Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon
Set design by Jean-Marc Puissant
Lighting designer Peter Mumford
Costume by Erdem Moralioglu