Exclusive: Erdem Moralioglu in Dubai
The Erdem effect
I n the past five months, Erdem Moralioglu has been named the Emergent Designer at the British Fashion Awards, played publisher to the book Erdem X and now the Canadian fashion designer is celebrating ten years at the helm of his eponymous label. In Dubai to celebrate along with Harvey Nichols Dubai, who have also turned 10, Moralioglu sits down with Buro 24/7 Middle East's Editor in Chief Shannon Wylie, to discuss talent, timing and his twin sister...
Welcome to Dubai!
Thanks. I'm here with Harvey Nichols Dubai. It's my 10 year anniversary and it's also Harvey Nichols Dubai's 10 year anniversary. We decided to join forces and celebrate our respective 10 years, which has been really fun.
And you had a party last night to celebrate...
Yes, which went really well. We actually recreated a little bit of the mood from the show and it was lovely.
It was a stunning event. Tell us about the elements you pulled from your Fall/Winter '16 show?
The chandeliers! The show in London was obviously about creating a sound stage and that feeling of being behind the scenes of a movie set, so there was a small little taste of that in the middle of the room. I think what was so lovely about the event was having the opportunity to show the Harvey Nichols clients the collection of clothes. It's really rare that we can actually walk clients through a collection.
Especially so soon after fashion week...
Yes! It was really nice. It was like the collection took on another life.
What do you think it is about Erdem that speaks to the Middle Eastern audience?
I think the Middle Eastern audience really craves pieces, which are very special and individual. I think they really love colour and they're not afraid of standing out. I have always been interested in creating pieces that have a very human hand and feel.
As part of your 10 year anniversary, you created a book. Tell us about the Erdem X.
Yes X being 10! A portfolio. It was so exciting. We worked with Sølve Sundsbø, who is an amazing fashion photographer and Guinevere Van Seenus, who is an amazing model. We photographed one dress per year starting from year one. But we didn't start 10 years ago, which would have been the most amazing forward thinking (laughs). We had 10 contributors write essays on different subjects to do with previous collections and what I do. Anna Wintour to the Editor of British Vogue and Suzy Menkes, it was amazing to have so many extraordinary contributors who really gave their time.
I really love the book aspect of the project. We produced only 200 of them and all of the proceeds go to the British Fashion Council MA Scholarship Foundation, which used to be the Princess of Royal Scholarship foundation — this I won when I was at the Royal College. So it's great to donate back to a scholarship, which helped me finish my education. I feel very lucky and it's nice to celebrate.
Speaking of awards, you've just won a British Fashion Award. Congratulations!
I did, yes! It was the Establishment Award, which is wonderful. It is a huge compliment and I felt very flattered to win.
Are awards an important part of your portfolio?
It's not something that you outwardly seek out. It's such a wonderful compliment when you're recognised by your peers though.
As a designer of your own self-funded label, what does a typical day look like for you?
Well, the first thing I do is I wake up.
Are you straight on social media? Are you in design mode?
I'm really trying to not have my phone be the first and last thing I look at when I wake up. But, I generally wake up and I'll try to go to the gym and then I go to the studio. I'm usually in very early and I finish quite late in the studio. I love my studio and I work very close to where I live. To start the morning off, I'll probably meet with the collections manager, then do a fitting, which will last two to three hours, and then I'll meet with the person who is in charge of managing all of the product development. Then I meet with the print designers to look at embroidery. There's a million things happening at the same time and I juggle a lot. I own and run the company as well, the label rather and I'm independent, which is great but with that comes a lot of responsibilities. I usually call a store and see how they're doing. We just opened our first store in August, which is also a part of the 10-year anniversary.
Do you have expansion plans to open more stores?
Hopefully, yes. I would love to very soon.
Where do you think your next destination would be?
I imagine somewhere in North America maybe.
So it's been 10 years since you launched Erdem. What does another 10 years look like?
Well, I definitely feel like expanding on my own stores. I love the process of creating a store. I worked with my partner, Phillip, who is an architect and naturally my collections became the narrative. I almost looked at the store from a forensic standpoint. It's amazing.
I love the idea of creating a space that has to do with what she would sit on, what art she would collect, what does the floor feel like under her feet when she's changing into a dress, what furniture would she collect?
And the store is a custom colour. What is it?
I'm going to describe it pretty badly... It's a kind of blue, blue-y eggshell, green, grey colour.
Does it have a name?
No, it doesn't (laughs). It is just the colour of the store.
Who is "she" that you described when you talk about designing the store?
It's a good question. I think she can be so many different people. The more I do this — 10 years in — I almost feel, the less I know her because you meet people, they might be a women who works in finance, a doctor, or a mum, she's so many different types of women. But she exists in my sketchbooks. She is whom I draw and I draw her again and again and again. By the end of the season, you have hundreds of drawings of this person that you're then almost trying to undo the equation of what the collection is and who she is and where she is going.
Has she been the same person for 10 years?
No. I think she definitely changes, she grows and evolves. In life, we all grow and change.
So you've just wrapped Fall/Winter '16. Do you have any inspiration for the next collection?
Who knows (laughs). I really want to go to the souk. I haven't been and I haven't really had the chance to explore yet.
Is the Middle East an area that excites you or does this region have more of a consumer interest for you?
It totally interests me and excites me from a cultural standpoint. I've never been to the Middle East until now. To begin with, my father is Turkish, he is from Eastern Turkey, which obviously is not the Middle East but I definitely feel that there is a connection. I'm a product of my parents. My mum is blonde, blue-eyed and from Birmingham and my father is very dark from Eastern Turkey. I'm a product of those two contrasts.
What is one thing people don't know about you?
I'm very good at whistling (laughs). I'm a twin.
Do you have those weird twin connections?
No! We're together so much that there is no reason for psychic exchange. Definitely not (laughs).
What does your twin do?
She's shooting a documentary film and she works in current affairs. She's wonderful.
What do you think about the move towards a consumer audience rather than the attendance of just press and buyers at fashion weeks?
I think it is an interesting thing. I feel like the old system is something that works in a way. I feel like if you are a brand that is creating a lot for your own retail stores, maybe it's possible to offer something that is immediately available to your customers. But I ultimately believe in working six months ahead and creating something specifically for your clients. I think the idea of producing something to be available immediately is just confusing.
That's very interesting! Speaking of consumerism... Talk me through the new Erdem collection that we're going to be seeing in stores now.
I really enjoyed designing the Fall/Winter '16 collection. In a way it was kind of a reaction to my Spring/Summer collection, which was about the prairies and this thing called prairie madness. I love the idea of contradicting that by creating a collection that had so much to do with faded glamour and lots of shine and lurex.
The idea of this character, was at some point very glamorous and she's now becoming something else, like a girl auditioning for something. I like this idea of aspirations and dreams. The idea of this show was an army of girls of sorts rushing through an audition and marching backstage through a sound set or a theatre. It was really fun to design it. It also had a lot to do with tailoring. The Spring/Summer collection is mostly all dresses and not a single pair of trousers whereas for Fall/Winter, there were proper suits, trousers and odd little loafers. It was a moment from the 1920s with flapper dresses, the 1930s with biased cut dresses and 1940s tailoring, which I really enjoyed.
Erdem is available at Harvey Nichols Dubai.