Erdem Moralıoğlu – Enchanting DesignersOctober 18, 2017
The first Erdem x H&M collection has just dropped amidst much excitement. A collaboration with the high street giant is surely the final stamp of success – even if you have already won a trillion awards, dressed film stars and royalty, and have your own store in Mayfair. So, what’s the inside gossip on this very wearable, very “now” designer?
I first met the absolutely lovely Erdem Moralıoğlu quite early in his career; he had won a prestigious award and as a result was honoured with a window in Harrods displaying his work. He, genuinely delighted, excitedly lead me around the outside of that iconic building to show me his beautiful dresses.
But this award was not such an out of the blue occurrence as the humble designer made it sound to me. I hadn’t head his name before but he was and is a focussed, hard worker with both a singular vision and the skill and drive necessary to actualise his creative dreams.
Erdem – cross cultural melding
The designer has a Turkish, English and Canadian heritage. His father is Turkish, his mother English, from Birmingham, and he was born and brought up in Canada, though now living in the East End of London. He was born in 1976, and was trained at both the Ryerston University in Toronto and London’s Royal College of Art. He has gone on to receive many more very well deserved accolades – about one a year, every year since I met him about ten years ago.
The Erdem label has been stocked at all the high-end boutiques, like Dover Street Market, Selfridges, Collette and Harvey Nichols, and a couple of years ago launched his flagship store. He was also quick to arrange accessories and spin offs, including a very successful sunglasses range with Cutler & Gross, stationary with Smythson and luggage with Globe Trotter.
From Antakya to Birmingham
The designer himself is a very polite, quiet sort of person, preppily dressed and neat as a pin with his side parting, glasses, and immaculately ironed shirts. He speaks in a Midatlantic accent, with, disappointingly, no discernible trace of Brum, although he spent time as a child visiting his mum’s extended family in Birmingham as well as his father’s in Antakya. In the meantime, the family (Erdem has a twin sister) also visited the culture capitals of both countries, exploring a bazaar in Istanbul one week and the Tower of London the next. There were road trips through California and holidays in Cape Cod.
It was perhaps these adventures and culture clashes that inspired the Erdem aesthetic – along with a steady teenage diet of fashion TV programs and costume dramas.
Erdem – a romantic look
The Erdem look has always been heavily predicated on dreamy and romantic dresses. They were quite unusual when I first saw them, but have always been popular since he launched his brand in 2005, showing first at Fashion Fringe, that springboard for so many brilliant designers.
Now, flowing silk maxi dresses in floral prints bedecked with frills, his USP, are everywhere, and no longer worn ironically with some kind of twist (ugly boots, mis-matched cardigan) but with fully feminine accessories for an unabashed delicacy. The Duchess of Cambridge, who is rather banned from any expressions of quirkiness, has worn his creations for several public engagements.
That’s not to say that Erdem designs are boring or staid. Film stars and models are allowed to be a little bit more expressive than royalty, and his work has been worn by Cate Blanchett, Claudia Schiffer, Marion Cotillard, Michelle Williams, Gwyneth Paltrow, Emma Watson, Julianne Moore, Anne Hathaway, Alicia Vikander, Keira Knightley, Rashida Jones, Emma Stone, Linda Evangelista, Jessica Chastain and Sarah Jessica Parker amongst others.
Elizabeth II vs Dorothy Dandridge
And to prove his slight twinkle of naughtiness amidst his very establishment reputation, his SS18 collection imagines an affair between Queen Elizabeth II and the American jazz musician Duke Ellington. How random, one might think, and yet not so much – Erdem has been going through Windsor Castle’s archives and the pair not only met, in 1958 when the Queen was 32, but Duke Ellington went on to write a suite of music for her. In Erdem’s world, the beautiful black midcentury actress Dorothy Dandridge also gets a look in – what if she had ended up at Buckingham Palace, Erdem mused? What if Elizabeth Windsor went to New York?
Accordingly, his SS18 collection is full of demure 1950s princess line coats, in silk jaquard and tweed, and flowing tea dresses. But that windowpane check also makes its way onto the tightest of pencil skirts that Dorothy, as Carmen Jones, would be proud to wear, and tiny busiers – worn with an Argyle cardigan slung over the shoulders. Grosgain ribbons and elbow length evening gloves constantly bring the references back to her majesty too.
Erdem actually interned for Vivienne Westwood as well as Diane von Furstenberg, and it’s really tempting to see the influence of the former in particularly this collection of tweeds and silks. He certainly has her eye for detail and sense of craftsmanship.
Erdem vs H&M
In a similar vein, his H&M collection has some very prim high collared coats in a 1950s style, and princessy dresses too. But they are modernised by his signature use of dark florals – bright bouquets of flowers on a black ground. Grosgain bows are everywhere too, even worn as brooches worn as accessories to his first ever menswear collection. Man brooches are very in this season, but in grosgain and pearl they look a lot like a sweet twist on military ribbons.
Also in the collection, which I don’t think either the Queen nor Dorothy Dandridge would wear – Prince Harry perhaps? – are hoodies and t-shirts, and since we’re talking royals I’m going to assign his pie crust blouses to Princess Di.
Erdem x H&M is available from November 2