I’m ushered into the fashion office at Hudson’s Bay, where the unusually calm and collected Erdem Moralioglu is furiously multitasking. It’s the day before the Believe in Fashion Charity Luncheon, which takes place this afternoon at Toronto’s Arcadian Court, where a splashy recreation of the London-based Canadian-born designer’s fall 2014 runway will close the event.
In town right after a late night following the MET gala—he was seated with Kim and Kanye—Erdem doesn’t miss a beat when getting down to business. As I walk in, he’s picking out a dress for his friend Jessica Pare to wear to the Toronto lunch, while simultaneously considering a model’s walk, gently suggesting that she sweep her hair off her shoulders. Somewhere in between (and sometimes during), he talks me through his favourite lavish frocks from the collection, his penchant for personality and his appreciation for princesses—who he’s no stranger to dressing since he launched his label in 2005.
Gallery: Erdem Fall 2014
Erdem AW '14
You always have these inventive, character-driven inspirations for your collections. What’s the backstory for the fall collection you’ll be presenting in Toronto? Well, it all started when I attended a wedding in Vienna last year. I went to the National Gallery, and they have one of the largest collections of Velazquez paintings there. I began really looking at the idea of infantas, at the idea of these oddly graphic shapes, these regal, amazing dresses on small bodies—on children. I was fascinated by the corsetry and the stomachers.
But there was another kind of princess you channeled, too.
I loved the idea of the Romanoffs escaping with their jewelry, [with resulted in the collection’s] mix of these poor fabrics with rich embellishments. I was also thinking about the student riots in the ’60s in Paris and women like Catherine Deneuve and Francoise Hardy. Ultimately, what I wanted was this army of tough girls. But something that had this regality.
Whereas your spring/summer collection was about a boy but also very much about a lady, this was really, truly about a girl. Everything was short and there are no long dresses. Which is surprising, because you do long dresses so well. Yeah, I do love the idea of long, but this season it just didn’t feel right.
You mentioned that collections for you are a reaction against the one you did before. Your spring, which is in stores now, is light and airy—while fall is decidedly darker. There was a lot of black for spring, but also a lot of lightness and transparency. But in a weird way, I suppose my main reaction to spring and summer was in the length. For fall, there’s a shortness to it. And the idea of saturated colour. I love the addition of these odd mustard yellow colours paired with intense blue [in the printed pieces]. Fall is much more about an absence of colour, which makes the saturated colour more intense.
You always imagine these wonderful narratives when you design. Why is that? It’s the way I’ve always worked. Even when I was a child, I drew in stories to figure out where my girl was going to go. I’ve always felt that a narrative can propel you forward. As much as each collection is reacting against and with what you’ve done previously, it’s about that story. For fall, she’s escaping something, so she’s taking like a melton wool with jet beading, but the sleeves will come off. The idea of mixing tailoring, taking something that’s a basic masculine fabric and making it precious, while taking something precious and not finishing it, letting it float away as you walk. I love that contrast.
You read a lot—and you love books. What were you reading when you were creating this collection? It was really, truly about that trip to Vienna. And Velasquez and those infantas. But, actually, at the time I was reading a biography of Truman Capote—which I guess doesn’t have anything to do with any of it!
Do you think women embody your characters when they wear an Erdem dress? What do they want to feel? Well, I hope they feel like the most beautiful version of themselves. I hope that when they put something on, it’s not even about a season, it’s something they can wear forever. You look at old Saint Laurent, the idea that your mother owned but it still looks very relevant and chic. Or it’s timeless, and it’s not even about an age. It’s something that an 18 year-old and an 80 year-old can wear.
Erdem’s Favourite Pieces from Fall
These prints were literally lifted from motifs I found at the Victoria & Albert museum. They were always jacquards, but I added lurex thread to it. We worked with this British mill that’s been making brocades since the 1850’s.
I love things like this, where velvet is bonded to neoprene, it’s been laser cut and embroidered so you get this amazing weird transparency.
A lot of those dresses I was looking at for inspiration had these sleeves that weren’t attached to the dresses—they were attached with ribbon underneath. I thought that was so interesting. I got that effect with tulle. and the dresses were held together with a bow in the back, so it’s completely backless.
I love the propriety of the bows but it’s in crocodile. There’s a meanness to it.
This skirt here is asymmetrical in this off way—almost like she hiked it up.
I love this off-preciousness. And these weird cuffs that can zip off, and then it becomes ¾ length. So it looks like there’s slashes in the elbows—it looks oddly medieval!
I like this off-feeling that a print was left out in the rain so it just disintegrates!
I took a shearling, which is generally regarded as a poor fur, embellished it and then cut the sleeves so there’s something quite jaunty about it.