Thursday, April 29, 2010

Erdem Moralioglu is a Nutcracker

A short timid man enters UCA Epsom’s Gallery in rolled up chinos, buttoned up check shirt and Cutler & Gross thick-rimmed specs. Wide-eyed and undoubtedly a bit intimidated by the eager fashion students staring down at him, he doesn’t let this affect his Canadian tinted voice. Reminiscent of a young Yves Saint Laurent, he captivates the room from the beginning.

Erderm Moralioglu, founder and head designer of Erdem, has had a hectic five years. Since his graduate collection at the end of a two year MA at the Royal College of Art in 2001, he has been pounced on by fashion buyers and editors alike, most recently Anna Wintour, who chose him for the Vogue Fashion Fund this year- something which he marks as a highlight of his budding career.

to a British mother and Turkish father, Erdem and his twin sister grew up in Canada with a very broad cultural background. He recalls his mother reading tales of the Nutcracker before bed and taking them to galleries and museums from a young age. His parents emigrated when they were in their early thirties and that affected the way he and his sister were brought up. He admits that they influence his work greatly, and “there was a great juxtaposition of cultures when I was growing up. We’d travel to Turkey one minute and be looking at the Towers of London the next”. He fondly remembers doodling women figures in the margins of copy books as a child, a silhouette that has rarely changed and remains the Erdem woman he designs for today.


Luckily his parents were very open about their children’s interests and let them study whatever they wanted. After graduating from Ryerson University in Toronto, Moralioglu attended RCA in London which provided an integral chapter in his fashion career. He occasionally lectures at the University as well as uses the vast library books on offer. “Sometimes I go and sit in the same seat I did when I was a student and burrow into a stack of design books”, and to the fashion followers surprise, no one seems to bother him. Not that he knows of anyway as he has “bad peripheral vision”. He speaks warmly of the college that propelled him into the limelight as he got to see some great people lecture there, people who still inspire him today such as the artist Wolfgang Tillmans (who is featured on the cover of this season's Fantastic Man).

Much like many fashion students today, Erdem completed a handful of internships in order to gain invaluable experience and insight into the fashion world. He was scouted for Diane Von Furstenburg and moved to New York to work in-house. He then went onto work at Vivienne Westwood where he was nestled away in the houses’ archive- something which excited him as he got to touch and study iconic Westwood garments- as well as make cups of coffee, a trait which all interns much possess.


Working at these great fashion houses, he always knew in the back of his mind that he wanted to start his own label, which was conceived in 2005. His intimate studio in Bethnal Green just keeps on growing, from two members of staff at the beginning (himself included) to the six right-hand-men/women he has on his team now. He would like to expand the studio if he can in the future, and he feels the diversity and mishmash of cultures in London really influence his designs unconsciously. The design process he describes is that of a complicated one. Known for his wonderful floral prints, he is a firm believer in digital print and the technology that is available to elevate his doodles in margins to iconic prints. Photoshop and other design programs help manipulate his prints, even if he does use it “badly”, and some end up coming together by accident and turn out to be strong focal points in his collections. He likes when he can trick the eye, making it look “as if it has been done by hand even if it is computer generated”.

Erdem received a lot of interest after his first collection in Spring 2005- Julie Gilhart of Barney’s in New York being one of them. Since then, demand for his garments have grown tenfold and he is now stocked in 24 different countries with 54 stores, and his most recent and exciting store added to the list is Colette in Paris. “I wanted to do something really special for the Colette window and I tried to think of something really French. So we had little Daxon dogs in floral prints. I since found out that the Daxon is actually a German dog, but the German stores were happy about the display anyway!”

that is obviously when looking back on Erdem’s previous collections is that he always explores the same things and ideas, but slightly tweaking them in order to make them fresh and new. He believes he has progressed since university, but that he still has the same aesthetic he began designing with. By mixing colours awkwardly together to create odd yet beautiful designs in structural shapes, Erdem has created stunning pieces that have been the talk of many fashion weeks. One of his favourite pieces was a cashmere embroidered poncho from A/W10 that was sold to a boutique in Paris, “so keep an eye out for a Parisian woman wearing a cashmere poncho, you’ll know that it’s my design!” His runway shows match the outfits excellently, and his most recent showing at Somerset house was a definite highpoint in his fashion week experience where he had the sounds of Edith Piat billowing from the end of the runway by a live piano, accompanying the Russian/French theme of his collection.

So what’s next for Erdem? Diffusion lines and side tracking into menswear isn’t on his radar just yet, nor is a high street collaboration. He has worked with shoe designer Nicholas Kirkwood on his recent collections, and has teamed up with Smythson the stationary company, to create exquisite diaries with signature Erdem print. But perhaps a stint at costume designing could be on the horizon. “I would love to do the costumes for the Royal Ballet”- the Nutcracker would certainly be a great place to start. He ends with a tip for promising designers- to do a long internship at a fashion house in order to see the magic that happens during fashion week, both the lead up and the post-show mayhem. No doubt there will be hundreds of letters and C.V’s fluttering towards Shoreditch this summer.

(Interview took place on Wednesday 28th Arpil 2010 at UCA Epsom)

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