Photography: Ryan Zeller & Faith Damm
There’s a massive front of student talent being fostered in Chicago and inevitably ignored by mainstream media “because the midwest is just a rolling sea of cornfields and cow farms, right?” Designer on-the-rise Eda Yorulmazoglu is among this promising pack—a senior at the School of the Art Institute Chicago and armed with a strong aesthetic framework that looks like the otherworldly nightmares of an innocent toddler.
Her latest collection, “My Perfect Nuclear Family,” is a tongue-in-cheek pastel assembly, inspired by the designer’s examination of “perfection” in society. The three-character presentation is seemingly pulled from a children’s picture book—campy and playful—marred with an unnerving sense of drama that’s evocative of the ’90s animated series, “Aaahh!!! Real Monsters.”
Yorulmazoglu’s theatrical efforts ultimately add fuel to the “costume vs. fashion” debate that’s been recently ignited by industry contemporaries, such as New York designer duo Ammerman Schlösberg.
We caught up with the rising student designer to talk about being raised in a Turkish household, developing the characters in her collection and creating a fashion film, which we’re thrilled to premiere, below.
Tell me about growing up.
“I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago in a family of six: my parents, two younger brothers and grandpa, who’s been living with us since I was four, after my grandmother passed away. Our household is very connected to our Turkish culture, and being that my grandfather lives with us and only speaks Turkish, it really helped my brothers and I keep our language. We are extremely family-oriented—maybe that’s why I created this family.”
When did your interest in fashion begin?
“I remember my grandma, before she passed, would always be sewing. We had a tiny blue broken sewing machine that I would pretend to sew on next to her. After she passed, I kind of let go of my passion for sewing, but it was around middle school where I started again and sold pajama pants to people. My brother still wears the one I made for him nine years ago—it’s at his knees now. After that I took initiation of my education and started taking sewing classes with a teacher in Turkey over the summer, then the Early College Program through SAIC. I decided early on that I wanted to go to SAIC because I couldn’t bare to be far from my family and I knew I could still be an artist through garment making.”
What was the process like leading up to this collection?
“The process leading up to my collection was not easy; I struggled hard to find something I could really connect to. In the past, my work was a lot darker and it always felt disconnected from who I am. I was stuck contemplating if I was on the right path and was doing the correct thing with my practice. Part of me felt like I should be doing ready-to-wear because of the industry, but for some reason I could never design for that or feel excited enough for it.”
How did you beat this creative block?
“After stressing, I just started drawing—not designs, but random drawings of strange creatures in unnatural situations. One of them was a mother pushing her monster baby in a stroller. I put them in the back of my mind, but I couldn’t forget them. I kept imagining a stroller on the runway; I admit I would laugh a lot to myself during the process. I realized that was an indication I was doing it ‘right’ because I was happy and being myself. My intention with the collection was to let people feel how I felt—scared at first or uncomfortable and confused, but then enjoy it and laugh.”
How did you develop “The Family” concept.
“I figured a family is something most people can connect with. I also thought of my own family and their sense of humor. I let the idea of ‘The Family’ run around in my mind, their faint silhouettes and appearance slowly becoming more clear the longer they lived inside my imagination. I would think where they lived and how they interacted with each other. I knew that something about them was very off and that if they lived in our society they would be judged, but they were still really happy and loving.
Through all the imperfections they had because of societal standards, I still saw perfection in them that I wanted to explore. I pondered the idea of perfection and thought long and hard of what that really means. For myself, I believe perfection can be achieved if you accept yourself as being different from others and still obtain happiness and love. I wanted this to be the main drive for my collection and that is when I had finally found what I was going to create: ‘My Perfect Nuclear Family.’”
Tell me more about the individual characters.
“The Child, whom doesn’t have a certain gender assigned to its character, doesn’t quite know how to properly play with its pets or toys. I wanted to make the child secretly evil, hence the murdering of the animals to make it into a coat. The Child has long arms as it is slowly growing into its mature form. Overall, it’s a good kid, besides the torturing of animals. Kids will be kids right?
For the Mother, I thought about her role in the family. Yes, a stereotypical mom is a homemaker, but I thought there could be more to her than just cleaning and making dinner. That’s when I labeled her as the ‘Baby-maker.’ The Mother can birth out babies at any given time. Since she’s constantly birthing these babies, the Mother tends to use them as decoration and food. I thought of my own mom here and how she always calls us by the wrong name because there are three of us; she always says how there’s ‘too many of us to keep up.’
For the Dad, I thought of my own father and how everyday after working from 5 am to 8 pm at the hospital, he would come home hunched over and tired, sometimes even falling asleep at dinner. The character of the Dad works very hard to support his family. His is a little bit more disfigured than the rest of the family, but he’s still a happy daddy. When the Child misbehaves, the Dad bumps it on the head with his baby stick to calm the Child down.”
What was your thought process behind the fashion film?
“I wanted to show people how they lived on a day-to-day basis and show that even though they’re different because of their appearance and behaviors, they still live a regular life as a loving family. I felt like this added to the clothing, bringing their characteristics to life. My choices like the Mother’s oven-mitt jumpsuit and the Dad’s lumpy suit showed through their daily activities. It gave them a chance to really move around in the garments the way they were designed. The video even gave an opportunity to show parts of the garments that were not shown on stage like Dad’s hairy chest and the Mother constantly birthing out babies.”
Watch the BULLETT premiere of “The Perfect Nuclear Family,” below: