Erdem's Quiet Storm

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Photo credit: Erdem
Photo credit: Erdem

Erdem Moralioglu has long been one of Britain’s most beloved designers of womenswear. Born in Montreal, Canada, of Turkish and British descent, he has lived in London since the turn of the century, and since launching his label, Erdem, in 2005, he’s been a favourite for a particular kind of chic, distinctive British woman: Kristin Scott-Thomas, Erin O’Connor and Alexa Chung are all fans. The house style is classically feminine, fragrant with florals, floaty fabrics, delicate bows, modest necklines and hems that glide hypnotically in the wearer’s wake.

In June, Moralioglu unveiled Erdem’s inaugural menswear collection, a series of nuanced takes on the standards of masculine clothing, and an exercise in creative restraint. Simple flat-fronted trousers cut with a higher-than-usual waist and shorter-than-usual leg. Mohair knits with ever-so-slightly bulbous sleeves. Shirts with subtly oversized collars. Short, boxy blazers, almost compact enough for Coco Chanel. There are florals, but not many. The most obvious question, given the confidence of the collection, which goes on sale this month is what kept him so long?

Photo credit: Erdem
Photo credit: Erdem

“In truth, I’d always thought about it,” he says, of the decision to launch menswear. (It’s July, and Moralioglu is calling from Patmos, in Greece, the country to which at one stage this summer it seemed every other Londoner with taste and the means to indulge it had decamped.) “I always thought that my woman had a brother, a partner, a friend. I did always imagine that he existed.” Moralioglu has a twin sister, Sara, so he perhaps understands better than most that duality of something that is both matching and opposite, and he was adamant that the men’s collection would not simply be a butch version of his womenswear — whatever that would mean in 2021. It would be “symbiotic” with the womenswear, but also independent.

Photo credit: Erdem / Tom Mannion
Photo credit: Erdem / Tom Mannion

The creative process began in earnest in the early summer of 2020, when, for obvious reasons, Moralioglu found the “time, space and silence” to zero in on who the Erdem menswear customer might be. “In the first lockdown I read Derek Jarman’s Modern Nature, and I suddenly became really obsessed with him,” says Moralioglu, of the late British artist and filmmaker’s celebrated journals. “And of course, I saw so many images of him. And what I found so interesting about Jarman - who created this very colourful, extraordinary visual world as a filmmaker, as an artist - he was very much a uniform dresser, and he had a blueprint of a wardrobe. I found that so inspiring, this idea of the slightly romantic utilitarianism of his world. And that was really the beginning of it.”

In the wake of the enforced drudgery of the past 18 months, there has been talk of a return to flamboyance in dress. Others (this reporter included) think we will revel in clothes once again, but it will be in the name of understatement, rather than a return to pre-pandemic peacockery.

“You’ve boiled it down to exactly what the motivation and intention was,” says Moralioglu with a sudden fervour, “to have this blueprint of pieces that had a permanence and an elegance to them. And I think there's something really wonderful about a quietness to things… that’s good! We live in a very strange time of noise, and how wonderful to be able to have pieces that are just quiet, and just become that piece you always go back to and absorb into your life.”

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