Amid a saturated Instagram explore page, Gizem Erhan is easy to spot: You can typically find her in a combination of animal print, shocking neon, and exaggerated proportions, all finished with winged eyeliner and thickly lined lips. It’s sometimes hard to tell which posts on her page are photos, collages, and illustrations, which is part of what makes her page so alluring. At some times, the 19-year-old Istanbul native resembles a digitally altered avatar, something that is further emphasized by her outfits, which are pumped with the excess of the noughties and goth undertones. She either resembles someone you’d run into at a club, or something you’d see while hallucinating. Erhan describes her style best herself: “A pleasingly disturbing mix of 18th century baroque, a little bit of punk and 2000s sassiness,” she says. “I’m walking chaos.”
If you look closely, you’ll see that Erhan’s photos have become more “chaotic” over the past few months, veering more into a fantastical realm. The inspiration runs deep, amid what feels like a world-wide existential crisis and a never-ending flow of tragedies, Erhan wants to create something true to herself that reflects the world around her—use chaos to reflect chaos. Erhan typically uses an extreme mashup of prints and materials, ranging from animal prints to newspapers to create her aesthetic. “I have the desire to express what is in my head, in the world, in my country, and things that I only know about through an image,” she says. Each creates a dark, grungy atmosphere, but the fashion always shines through. In one case, she poses in full leopard print with a Farah Fawcett blowout in a room filled with animal prints, and in another image, she poses in front of a crudely illustrated background of a house while wearing full red zebra print.
Erhan started editing her images during COVID-19 when she couldn’t attend her fashion school at Yeditepe University, where she is a second-year student. The free time gave Erhan time to think, and she concocted images inspired by cabarets, musicals, cult horror movies, and 18th-century paintings and drawings. But the most fascinating ones are when they are ever-so-slightly changed and make it difficult to tell what is reality or Erhan’s eerie realization of her imagination. In one image Erhan wears a puffed fuchsia top cinched by a vest with an updo, and in another upload, she wears a dress that is completely laden with belts. At first glance, it seems like a typical Erhan get-up, but in reality, she has altered everything, adding on garish accessories and exaggerating pieces, making the image all that more extreme, and yet, still realistic.
Of course, Erhan is not the first to digitally alter her look, or make herself into an avatar-like being. Computerized fashion has been one of the most popular trends during COVID-19, and has become a fun pastime for many. Designer Edwin Mohney used programs to create morphed mannequins wearing pre-programmed clothes that he toyed with. Moschino put on a full show using animated puppets, as did GCDS, which included a Sim-like Dua Lipa and Anwar Hadid in the front row. Though the beauty of Erhan’s deliciously bizarre Instagram is that everything seems attainable. “I can make everything look possible,” she says. In fact, Erhan’s high-octane digital designs are becoming a reality and she’s started to make her own clothes. Her newest creation has been a white knit sweater covered in bijoux that she describes in her signature description as: “chaotic.”