In the Atelier of Serkan Cura
Two years ago, Serkan Cura gathered all his savings to buy most of the stock of feathers of Maison Fevrier, a Parisian plumassier or feather specialist which was closing down. Maison Fevrier had been specializing in theatrical costumes and along with ostrich and peacock feathers, Cura was also able to get his hands on a stock of exotic bird feathers including pappus, cassoar, heron and various birds of paradise.
“They had about 200sqm of feather stock. I couldn’t buy everything, so I concentrated on the exotic ones because these feathers are no longer available as the birds are now protected and the only way to get your hands on those is to buy old stocks,” explains the 31-year-old couturier.
Now sitting in his small atelier, surrounded by transparent boxes where feathers have been carefully classified by species, Cura is working on a short bustier dress that will incorporate his entire stock of birds of paradise feathers, the equivalent of 100 birds, that he will unveil in a few days at what will be his second couture collection and his first couture runway.
“It’s a bit like the cavern of Alibaba,” he laughs, “there is really everything here, turkey, swan, duck, goose, parrots.”
Cura is quick to point out that his exotic feathers are old stocks that he bought scavenging flea markets or auctions.
“I’m a real bargain hunter and I’ll go everywhere to get my hands on different feathers. The other day I found a box with old feather from herons, I had to throw away half of them, but I kept the rest. I’ve also gone to auctions, recently a stock of costumes from the Folie Bergeres was put up for sale and I bought a small lot of beautiful blue ostrich feathers that I will now be able to reuse in a dress,” he explains.
Cura’s fascination with feathers began as a boy and he remembers finding old hats and feathers in a flea market when he was 13 and starting playing with them. Today he loves to trick the eye by playing with different feathering techniques that allow him to create fur-like garments.
For his new collection, Cura has designed a three-meter-long shawl that weaved feathers on silk, reproducing an old sample he had found. The slow process took six months to a seamstress to realize, but the effect is striking. He has also designed a corseted jacket using peacock feathers that he dyed and then burned to give it the appearance of monkey fur.
“I spent a lot of time studying old techniques. Feathers are a very flexible and transformable material. For example you can use feathers and make them resemble silver fox,” he explains, adding he has also developed a special glue that permits his garments to be washed.
“This glue can be encrusted into the fabric, so that it doesn’t dissolve in water like the glue used by plumassiers,” he explains.
Born in Anvers, Belgium, Cura studied fashion design at the Royal Academy of Antwerp and graduated in 2007 with a collection that explored absurdist tone-on-tone silhouettes with oversized structured jackets and full skirts made of handcrafted textures.
He then worked for four years in the atelier of Jean-Paul Gaultier, which he describes as a “great experience.” Yet, Cura was also itching to set up his own label where he would be free to experiment.
“Gaulthier is really the top, but when you work in a couture house, you do have to listen to the master. Here, I can do exactly what I want,” he explains.
Cura presented his first collection in January, seven corseted silhouettes embellished with fantasy feathers, like white egrets and parrot, and this season he’s following this up with 17 new looks.
The inspiration for this collection was nature, more animal and fur than birds, he says, adding “I don’t use fur, but I’m trying to replicate it.”
Hanging in his studio is an already finished outfit made of ostrich and hen-pheasant feathers, along with the sumptuous jacket made of dyed and burned peacock feather and an impressive collar that he will use on a bridal gown made of white turkey feather which he has knotted to create a barbed wire effect.
His collection will also include rooster, ostrich, golden pheasant, nandou (an south American bird from the same family as the ostrich), ash heron, great argus (from the pheasant family) and pigeon, amongst others.
Cura explains that a great deal of time has to be spent on preparation as the feathers have to be washed and dried and then tied in small bundles. Sometimes he uses a fine brass rod to envelop the base of the feather, which can then be pricked into the fabric. The flexible brass holder allows him to perfect his vision by standing the feathers in all directions.
Corsetry is at the heart of many of his looks. “I like corset because it refines the waist and I love tiny waists that make hips look rounder,” he explains.
The designer starts with the silhouette and then tries to find the feather that will best fit, “but it’s also very organic and I make a lot of changes.”
Though he admits focusing on couture rather than ready to wear may seem over ambitious and will be difficult for a young designer, he says, “for me it’s about making people dream and I don’t think I can do this in ready to wear. I want to give people the desire to touch. Right now, it’s is really about creating dreams.”
As written for Couture by Designaré Vol 3 (September 2012)