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Bora Aksu: When Fashion Imitates Art

The Turkish-born designer Bora Aksu, who has built up a loyal following for his romantic and fanciful dresses, has returned to London Fashion Week for the fourteenth time. His latest collection to debut continued this whimsy legacy as he drew inspiration from the revolutionary abstract artist Hilma af Klint.

Illustration by Grace Han

Born in Sweden in 1862, Klint developed an early interest in painting and drawing before going on to study at the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Stockholm. She completed classical training and embarked on a career as a traditional painter of landscapes. Her epiphany came in 1896 following the death of her sister; tired of conventionality she turned to spiritualism as a means of understanding the world around her. She later formed a collective with four other like-minded female artists. This group, together known as ‘The Five’, gave her the freedom to explore her inward-being through a series of experimental automatic drawings. It was through this kind of artistic expression that she developed her own language of geometric forms and colours that visualised complex spiritual ideas.

By the end of her life, Klint had completed over 1200 paintings and drawings. The majority of these works, however, remained unseen by the public. Having been rejected by her contemporaries early in her career, Klint concluded that the world was not ready for her art and decided to store them carefully away in her atelier. It was following her death that she was proven right; her collection was released into the public sphere and by the 1980s, she received international recognition as a pioneer of abstract art.

It is this duplicitous life lead by Hilma af Klint that inspired Bora Aksu in the creation of his Autumn Winter 2020 collection. Monochrome two pieces made in traditional fabrics such as tweed and wool hinted at the artist’s everyday existence as a nineteenth-century Woman. These outfits, styled with pearl-necklaces and Linda Farrow reading glasses, imitated the conservative public persona projected by Klint during her lifetime. Aksu then attempted to juxtapose these designs with romantic tulle dresses that drew alternative inspiration from the artist’s spiritual compositions. These ethereal robes were embroidered with vibrantly coloured abstract forms visually similar to those found in Klint’s paintings. The soft silhouettes of Aksu’s garments further mimicked the feminine charge of her oeuvre.

Through his latest collection, Bora Aksu successfully encapsulated the projected persona of Hilma af Klint and the essence of the spiritual journey expressed in her paintings. It made for a stimulating show that explored the depth of one woman and her art.


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