Written by Micky Farivar.
Resort 2014 Collection photos courtesy of Erdem.
Interview photos by Walter Grio.
Erdem Moralioglu was born and raised in Canada to a Turkish Dad and British Mom. Anglophile at heart, he moved to London to intern with Vivienne Westwood and study at the prestigious Royal College of Art. After receiving his Master’s degree in 2003 he moved to New York to work alongside Diane von Furstenberg before relocating to London to launch his own label “Erdem” in 2005. He was awarded the Fashion Fringe Award the same year, the Swarovski British Fashion Council (BFC) Fashion Enterprise Award in 2007, The BFC’s Fashion Forward Award and in 2010 The BFC/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund Award.
Nominated the Designer of the year in 2009 by the BFC, Erdem has quickly become one of the hottest names in fashion circles, often touted as “Britain’s answer to Christian Lacroix” (Vogue). He is most admired for his vibrant, flower strewn, and dreamy watercolor prints and detailed craftsmanship. His timeless pieces are inspired from art, theatre, movies, books, and nature — creating a beautiful world of delicateness and boldness mixed together. And with the praises of Hollywood celebrities and fashion royalties such as Anna Wintour, Sarah Jessica Parker, Anne Hathaway, Gwyneth Paltrow and Keira Knightley — Erdem is, to say the least, on the right track to becoming a fashion icon.
I had the honor to sit down with Erdem at Saks Fifth Avenue in Chevy Chase, Washington DC, a day after his successful Spring/Summer 2014 collection presentation at the 4th Annual Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation Great Ladies Luncheon and Fashion Show. The simple Q&A turned into a very natural conversation and his responses made me admire him even more.
What inspired you to work with the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation?
When I heard Elise Lefkowitz’s story about her mother, I was very inspired. I also lost my mother when I was quite young and it was really this tribute to her mum that stroked me. So when I was invited by Saks and by the Foundation, of course I jumped on the opportunity.
Editor’s Note: The Great Ladies Luncheon is co-chaired by Leonard A. Lauder and Elise and Marc Lefkowitz in collaboration with Saks Fifth Avenue.
As a British designer, how would you describe fashion in Washington, DC or in the United States in general?
That’s a very good question! I was at the charity event yesterday and I met so many women from all different walks of life — all had very different individual styles. I think Washington DC is such an extraordinary city full of strong, amazing, and intelligent women — that I think it would be impossible to describe it as a particular style.
Yes and Washington, DC is very international!
Totally! Absolutely! And I haven’t met many people who are actually born and bred in Washington DC. Everyone is from a different place. And the style is difficult to pinpoint because it is, like you say, such an international city.
What was your inspiration behind the collection you just showed?
I actually was in Vienna for a wedding and I found these amazing paintings by Velasquez with Spanish children wearing very formal, royal clothing — so I was looking at things like that and also looking at people like Catherine Deneuve and this kind of ideas of 60s, new wave”ness”. I also went to the storage unit of the Victoria and Albert Museum in London where they store all their old couture and costumes and I was looking at all those garments and turning them inside out and I was really intrigued by these kind of codes of femininity and the idea of couture mixed with formality, and also mixed with the French 60’s thing. Lots of different things inspired me.
Editor’s Note: The Resort 2014 Collection was photographed at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
You once said, in Vogue.com, that you consider each season a chapter in the same book. Could you explain?
Yes! I always felt that when I design a collection, I draw effectively the same exact girl. Since I was a child I’ve always drawn this woman and each collection it feels like it’s a chapter. The same girl with different things happening, she goes in different places. You know, as in life, everything around you changes but she is the common thread that links the collection together. I always think, at the beginning of the season, where she is going to go and what’s going to happen to her.
This is amazing! Like a book with different stories!
Yes, I like the idea of a narrative that kind of pulls it forward.
When did you realize you wanted to become a fashion designer?
When I was very young. Even when I was 5 I was always drawing women and was very preoccupied by how they looked, how my mother looked. I was always intrigued by women. Obsessed with how they looked! I was a very peculiar little child!
Please describe the perfect Erdem woman? Who is your muse?
That girl who exist in my sketchbook! She is not a tangible thing. I find it difficult to say that she is an actress or this person or that person that your reader might be able to identify with. She is a constant — but also everyone who I dress. She is that woman that I dress in Washington, in Paris, or Istanbul. She is so many different people and I don’t think I can describe her as one thing. I’ve always been so fascinated by the kind of codes of femininity and the idea of something that feels so very special when you wear it. That’s the most important thing. I love the idea of individuality and that could be a very important aspect of my woman.
What’s a fashion trend you wish would disappear?
Gosh! Wearing something that you feel you should wear or you think it’s right but you don’t feel comfortable in. Discomfort is a trend that should go away.
Please describe your perfect day.
My perfect day… I would wake up and go run. Run to the studio and stop by the Italian Deli behind the studio for scrambled eggs. Get to work where everyone would be happy and then have a nice lunch, and then go home, cook dinner and I would probably watch a little bit of TV. I am actually quite a boring person!
Talking about food, what are your favorite places to eat around the world?
This is serious! Around the world! That’s such a good question! Ok, one of my favorite restaurants is called Chez Paul in Paris, which is just a very simple French bistro food. Love! I love Bob Bob Ricard in London, which is great, and again kind of bistro food as well actually.
Bistro food is always the best!
Love love! What else? I have been to extraordinary places but I never remember the names. Like amazing sushi in Japan but can’t recall the name. Oh! I went to an amazing restaurant in Los Angeles in Venice Beach called Axe, but pronounced Atchay. I went there for my birthday and had their 3 grain pancakes, it was amazing! Very organic.
You would love Peacock Café in Georgetown then! My husband started it over 20 years ago in Georgetown with the first juice bar in DC and we do mostly organic food!
Amazing! Next time, I am ready. Or maybe for lunch today!
Anytime! Ok, what’s the first thing you do when you wake up and the last thing you do before bed?
I like to go running in the morning. And what’s the last thing I do before I go to bed? Probably read a book. I would read for an hour.
What type of books?
At the moment I am reading a biography on Truman Capote. Which is very interesting.
What was the best advice you’ve been given?
Keep Calm and Carry on!
And if you weren’t a fashion designer, what would you be doing?
I would probably be either a bookstore owner. I love collecting books. Or a curator, or I might work designing theater sets and costumes. Or, I’d love to be an amazing swimmer! I am an “OK” swimmer but not great. I would love to be an amazing athlete in another life. Ok maybe we go with the bookstore. It’s better!!
Special thanks to Kerri Larkin, Marketing Director at Saks Chevy Chase and Carrie Tracy, Assistant Director Special Events at the Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation for coordinating this interview. And of course, a heartfelt thanks to Erdem Moralioglu for spending a few minutes with us.
The Alzheimer’s Drug Discovery Foundation was established in 2004 as a public charity to support the advancement of drugs to prevent, treat, and cure Alzheimer’s disease, related dementias, and cognitive aging. Our strategy of venture philanthropy is based on the idea that our research grant recipients are engaged in projects that are potentially viable in the marketplace with a possible return on investment. Our strategy has proven successful. The projects we have funded made measurable scientific strides, and some have returned their initial funding. Learn more at www.alzdiscovery.org.
ABOUT THE EVENT
The ADDF hosted its 4th Annual Great Ladies Luncheon and Fashion Show on April 1st, 2014. The Luncheon, co-chaired by Leonard A. Lauder and Elise and Marc Lefkowitz, and in collaboration with Saks Fifth Avenue, was held at the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, DC.