For his Spring Summer menswear collection, Erdem has delved into the world of artist and plantsmen Cedric Morris at Benton End in Suffolk. The 16th century house is where Morris lived from 1939, a refuge where he gardened, painted and mentored several artists and writers, together with his lifelong partner Arthur Lett-Haines (known as Lett). Photography of the collection took place at Benton End, which is soon to reopen to the public thanks to the Pinchbeck Charitable Trust and The Garden Museum.
The collection is inspired by the mood in photographs of the couple together outdoors, combined with the palette of Morris’s portraits and still life arrangements of the flowers he cultivated and grew. Garments have a summery languorous ease, perfect for days spent in the studio or outdoors in the long grasses. Natural textiles and practical silhouettes, elevated in character with colour and print, are worn in a variety of combinations.
Suits are lightweight in white corduroy or unlined linen, trousers are wide-legged and shorts are long. The formality of 1940s menswear is loosened, exaggerated and unbuttoned to become kinder. Even shirts have their points gently curved, removing any sharper edges to create a softer effect. Silk neckties are worn loosely draped to one side, instead of tightly knotted symmetrically at the neck. Light romance hangs in the air.
A dandy-ish flamboyance reveals particularities of individual personality in cropped jackets and berets (a signature of Lett) together with blowsy bowties, sequined trousers and suits. The gentle passage of time throughout the day is marked with different garments: elegant silk pyjama suits and patchwork bathrobes are worn in the garden on a summer morning; mohair jumpers and Breton knits tucked into linen trousers are at hand for cooler evenings.
Morris was renowned for his iris collections. He grew hundreds of varieties, naming his own creations after beloved cats, friends and former lovers. The collection borrows the distinct yolk yellows and vivid purples from his irises, together with olive greens and various shades of blue. They appear in floral prints on loose cotton shirts and linen shorts, and embroidered on a smarter cotton gabardine suit, worn on trips to London for teaching days at the RCA.
As with Morris himself, the collection combines the emotional expression of the artist with the ethereal earthiness of the gardener. One senses these men cherished their lives at Benton End. It was their sanctuary - a special enclave they inhabited together away from the formalities and constraints of public life in wartime England. To this day, there is an appealing sense here of liberation – the echoes of lives lived peacefully on a couple’s own terms, without fear or judgment.
Photography: William Waterworth
Styling: Ola Ebiti
Video: Arthur Studholme
Hair & Make-up: Takuya Uchiyama