Erdem Chats with The Room's Nicholas Mellamphy

Nicholas Mellamphy talks to Erdem Moralioglu—the expat of prints—about designer icons, his defining moment and why he'd rather not dwell on where he's from

Photo by Thomas Lohr

Photo by Thomas Lohr

When it came to interviewing Montreal-born, London-based designer Erdem Moralioglu, what better man for the job than self-appointed “glamour enabler”—and long-time champion of the label—Nicholas Mellamphy of The Room? (Official title: Chief Adventurer, a.k.a. vice-president and buying director at Hudson’s Bay Company’s The Room.) Canadians have been quick to swathe themselves in Erdem’s ladylike frocks, thanks to Mellamphy’s prescient decision to carry the line in fall 2009, Erdem has since  earned closet space the world over, winning the 2010 British Fashion Council/Vogue Designer Fashion Fund prize and the support of celebrity clients like Anne Hathaway, Kristen Stewart, Naomi Watts and Ashley Olsen. (Oh, and also Kate Middleton, who famously donned Erdem during her first Canadian tour.) Armed with our burning questions, Mellamphy rendezvoused with the 35-year-old designer during London fashion week, squeezing in lunch at Shoreditch House the day after Erdem’s uncharacteristically moody fall 2013 show. Over tagliatelle and risotto, they discussed everything from his very first piece to his must-have model to the is-he-or-isn’t-he-Canadian? debate. But no matter how Erdem defines his nationality, we will always count him as one of our own.

Emma Watson, Marion Cotillard and Sienna Miller, all in Erdem; Photos by Getty Images

Emma Watson, Marion Cotillard and Sienna Miller, all in Erdem; Photos by Getty Images

NM: Let’s talk about your backstory—you’re from Montreal but you moved to Toronto to study at Ryerson, and now live in London. What would you consider to be the differences between how Toronto women approach fashion versus how Montreal women do?

Erdem: There’s a relaxed chicness to Canadian women in general—not sloppy, but they march to their own drummer.

NM: You are variously described as a Canadian designer and a London-based designer. When Sienna Miller wore you to the 2013 Golden Globes—and called you “the hottest young designer coming out of England”—it resulted in many tweets saying that you’re Canadian, not British.

Erdem: I hate that idea of having to define where you’re from.

NM: I feel like your personality is defined by wear you live. What led you to London?

Erdem: The Royal College of Art—that was really the most important moment for me, studying there.

NM: When did you first want to design women’s clothes? There’s an anecdote that your first piece was made for your twin sister’s Barbie.

Erdem: It was actually a baby-blue circle skirt. It was literally two pieces of fabric sewn together. But it was quite pretty because it had a nipped-in waist. It’s actually in the studio.

Hitchcockian heroines Steffi Soede and Stephanie Hall starred in Erdem's Pre-Fall 2013 lookbook

Hitchcockian heroines Steffi Soede and Stephanie Hall starred in Erdem’s Pre-Fall 2013 lookbook

NM: Did you feel like a designer when you made it?

Erdem: I think from a very early age I knew this is what I wanted to do. I grew up watching people like Tim Blanks and Jeanne Beker—Fashion Television was so important to me. I lived and breathed fashion, and was obsessed with it from a very young age.

NM: You have a very directional signature aesthetic, which is rare in young designers. What are some of your recurring ideas?

Erdem: I’ve always been interested in femininity, and things like lace and colour and pattern. I love exploring those things and how you can use them to create the most beautiful version of yourself. I’ve always been interested in beauty—I think that’s why, if I had to choose a fashion icon, I’d choose Yves Saint Laurent. He always embraced the idea of woman. And I think what he did doesn’t really age. You can look at a YSL piece from 20 years ago and it’s still relevant.

NM: Your collections have also been associated with English style and identity, and Brits like Kate Middleton. Do you think of your line in these terms?

Erdem: I never think of it as a line; I always think of it as a collection, as a chapter in a story, like, where is our girl going to go next? What’s going to happen to this woman? I’d hate to think of it within such defined parameters. As a designer, I’m always looking forward and exploring different things. There is something very daring, though, about how English women dress, but I think Canadians are very daring as well.

NM: I think fabulous people are fabulous no matter where they live.

Erdem: I find it interesting—what is it about a woman who buys the same dress in Hong Kong, or Tokyo, or Paris, or Moscow, or Los Angeles?

NM: You also find the same pieces left over at the end of each season in every city. It’s interesting how women the world over see fashion in a very similar way. You always have a girl in your head—the same girl—for your collection, so what happened in this girl’s life for Fall 2013?

Erdem: To me, it’s always about the girl that I draw, the girl that lives in my sketchbooks. This season I was really looking into Ingmar Bergman’s 1966 film Persona, and the idea of duality, the idea of darkness.

NM: Did your mother’s style influence you?

Erdem: She wasn’t really a fashion-y person at all. She had a great sense of wit and humour, and was so chic. She would take my sister and me to art galleries when we were five, show me books about ballet before bed, and explain to me what expressionism was. She really showed me everything that would eventually inform my work. She’s really the most important woman in my work.

NM: You haven’t opened a retail store, or done a full campaign yet. Have you ever thought about creating a campaign? Who would you use?

Erdem: Guinevere Van Seenus. She’s such a beautiful, striking woman. To me, she has a timeless beauty that would feel right. She’s very interesting—an individual.

Guinevere Van Seenus; Photo by Canadian Press

Guinevere Van Seenus; Photo by Canadian Press

NM: You’ve dressed an enviable list of celebrities, but is there anyone left on your wish list?

Erdem: Tilda Swinton.

NM: She’s never worn an Erdem piece? Ever? How does that happen? Now, you produce four collections a year—do you find it taxing?

Erdem: The schedule can be really difficult. But there’s nothing like finishing a show and feeling like you got to say everything you wanted to say, and everything looked like you wanted it to look. I’m very lucky to be able to create something new four times a year.

NM: And do what you want to do.

Erdem: And do what I’ve always wanted to do.