Erdem Moralioglu wears a juicy green mohair sweater with gray flannel pants as he welcomes me to his office – a converted warehouse full of curiosities in east London. There are shelves sunk into the rafters with books, artwork wrapped in bubble wrap lying on the floor, and a painting by Keith Vaughan peeks out behind a sculpture in the corner. As the designer speaks, his hands float skyward as if he is manipulating a fabric or drawing something in the air. It’s a lovely company.
When we meet, he’s just staged a critically acclaimed SS22 collection at the British Museum to celebrate his 15 years as a record label. It was her first physical spectacle since the pandemic, coincidentally on the anniversary of her mother’s death; as the track reached a crescendo, a rainbow filled the gloomy British sky. It seemed like a fitting and magical moment.
But we’re here to talk about his first line of men’s clothing, which is releasing this month. “I’ve always wanted to do menswear,” says Moralioglu, “but I wasn’t sure when I would have the guts to do it and now, well, we’re in the middle of it. The designer had started to see more men in the studio wearing Erdem womenswear, so set out to create a masculine narrative; they had a model tried on pieces from the women’s collection, looking for “clues” to the identity of the Erdem man. “I grew up with a twin sister and almost unrelated to gender,” he recalls. “When you see pictures of us when we were young, you see us in the same sweaters.” He explains that men are not designed to feel like women’s husbands or even like an opposite. “It’s an extension of her and her world,” he says. “As she evolved, he came into being.”
For the debut, he created 36 looks, showcased in a windswept photoshoot on West Wittering Beach. The details: boat necklines to tighten the collarbone, tuxedo belts, slightly longer turtlenecks to tuck in the chin, bobs, rounded lapels, fluffy sweaters (including the one he’s wearing). There is an elegant, characteristic Erdem vibe involved, interspersed with a weirdness, a slight lack of reading, even a hint of rave. The designer says he wanted this first offering to serve as a “blueprint” for future ideas for a man’s wardrobe: “There is a casualness in this collection, a lightness in the tailoring. ”
For inspiration, he focused on the life of Derek Jarman (there is an entire stack of his books on Moralioglu’s desk) and his “uniform clothing,” including overalls and other utilitarian clothing. . “Jarman was such an individual, and truly an outsider who created something that people maybe didn’t really like. There is something so beautiful about his work, ”says Moralioglu, holding up a copy of Modern nature, the filmmaker / artist’s diaries from 1989 to 1990, which he read during confinement. “It totally spoke to me. This was around the time he moved to Dungeness, and he was thinking about the past, thinking about the future.
It is also inspired by the art of Patrick Procktor, who evolves in the same circle as David Hockney and whose work Moralioglu bought. “He had an amazing way of drawing. His watercolors, especially his depiction of men, I always thought they were beautiful – quite soft. He had an incredible palette.
Moralioglu was born in Montreal and moved to London in 2000 to study at the Royal College of Art in London (he worked in the library as a student). He launched his label in 2005; it recalls influences from both Turkey (where his father was) and England (where his mother was born). His clothes have been on display at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, and he has dressed an array of impressive women from Madonna (“It was amazing!”) To Duchess of Cambridge, Anna Wintour (in tennis!) To Jessie Buckley.
He says his love of color stems from his childhood, when he wore yellow from head to toe – his favorite. His childhood home was a yellow stucco bungalow surrounded by flowers (flowers being an iconic motif of Erdem). And there is almost always a touch of it in his collections; in its male debut there is a glorious canary cardigan.
Moralioglu’s collections are also often storytelling – he is fascinated by unusual people and their stories. “My mother was such an avid reader, she loved art and took us to museums and galleries – she was very interested in beautiful things,” says Moralioglu. Previous seasons have drawn inspiration from Italian revolutionary Tina Modotti or photographer Cecil Beaton, while her SS22 collection has woven its magic from the stories of women associated with Bloomsbury, Edith Sitwell and Ottoline Morrell.
The SS22 runway show also featured six men’s looks – perhaps a glimpse of how he sees man Erdem fit into women’s fashion as it evolves. There was a cropped, crumpled satin suit with wide lapels, eyelet embroidery, and a toile de Jouy-style botanical print on a shirt and matching pants. “There’s something a little disheveled but also buttoned up about it,” he says. “We have given a lot of thought to how men should feel fully part of this [women’s] collection, not a gadget. For the show, as for the past three years, he worked with London stylist Ibrahim Kamara, who also collaborates with Virgil Abloh at Louis Vuitton, as well as with emerging labels like Maximilian. “It’s a wonderful thing when you find someone you can dance with,” Moralioglu says of the partnership.
It’s a testament to the designer that his brand remains independent – no small feat in an era of fashion ruled by conglomerates. “It’s something I’m very proud of,” he says. “I don’t really think about it often, but it’s what I’ve always known.” About half of the collection is made in the UK, although recent Brexit challenges have added complications to its operations. The designer “also hates the idea of waste”, so wherever possible, fabrics are reused as part of a responsible and permanent approach to his design work.
I ask him, given how many A-list women he has dressed, are there any prominent men he would like to see wearing his men’s clothes? “I will be delighted to see someone wearing men’s clothing on the street. It is the most beautiful of compliments. He pauses. “And if I see someone wearing something from us, I’m just going to compliment them, even if I never say it’s me.”