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As his exclusive collection of evening gowns launches on MATCHESFASHION.COM, Erdem Moralioglu talks to The Style Report about his design inspiration.

Words by Jane McFarland. Photographs by Rhys Thorpe. Fashion by Helen Thomson.

Erdem Moralioglu is passionate about storytelling. With a female protagonist almost always the starting point for his escapist collections, the Canadian-born designer has an affinity for historical references, regularly mining both an extensive book collection and the internet for his latest wave of inspiration. ‘Inspiration can kind of hit you anywhere. I’m a big collector of books, so I usually start with a book or something – then there’s some strange catalyst that forces the penny to drop,’ he explains. ‘Then you get into it and build up the idea of who your woman is, almost forensically. The inspiration and narrative is something that helps me in the process of designing the collection. It’s the way I’ve always worked.’

It was a true story from the seabed that formed the basis of his imaginative SS17 collection: ‘I was on a train to Bath and read an article about this dress that they found off the shore of Holland. It was a dress that had belonged to a woman named Jean Ker, Countess of Roxburghe, who was a lady-in-waiting to the wife of Charles I of England. She was on her way to deliver the young bride Princess Mary to Holland, but she was actually going on a covert mission to France to secretly sell the crown jewels to raise money for the royals,’ he explains. ‘She was a double spy, which I thought was amazing. Then I thought what would have happened if the boat made it and 300 years later this army of women warriors stormed the shores of Deauville in the 1930s? It was an incongruous, odd mix of things that don’t really go together, but in my head, it worked. This funny narrative was my starting point and I ran with it.’

Imaginary characters aside, Moralioglu’s wistful clothing has enchanted a spectrum of real-life women for more than a decade. From high-profile political faces such as Michelle Obama and Samantha Cameron to a coterie of art darlings and fashion girls including Yana Peel and Alexa Chung, Erdem’s appeal is widespread. ‘I think it’s amazing when you see a woman wearing what you do, and you can see that she’s absorbed that piece into her life and wears it in her own way,’ he says. ‘It’s clearly individual. It feels modern and beautiful.’

I love the guipure dress, it’s so interesting. It almost looks like a blouse and a skirt, but it has this amazing Swiss guipure hand to it. It feels really special.

Renowned for his atmospheric runway shows, Moralioglu’s preparation remains a highlight. ‘When you see the girls lined up for the runway, that’s the moment you feel fear and total joy – that this idea you’ve been trying to get across is suddenly being explored. I think it’s a wonderful, scary thing,’ he admits. ‘With each look in a row from start to end, you can almost see your essay. It’s all laid out in front of you – it’s wonderful.’

SS17’s exquisite embroidered lace, shredded silk-chiffon and jacquard dresses and ditsy floral gowns are a reminder of Erdem’s status as a dress designer. ‘It’s kind of like your own handwriting. It’s not necessarily something you feel trapped by, it’s just something you do,’ he says. An eight-piece capsule collection for MATCHESFASHION.COM, focusing on the label’s signature styles, highlights his prowess for knowing exactly what women want from that one piece. ‘I love the guipure dress, it’s so interesting. It almost looks like a blouse and a skirt, but it has this amazing Swiss guipure hand to it. It feels really special,’ he says. ‘The Alina dress is a strapless dress that’s been done in a jacquard. It’s similar to one in the SS17 collection, but it’s in this amazing new colourway. The motif is also different, and it’s a really beautiful white duchess-y jacquard with this dark blood, burgundy colour.’

While a conversation with Moralioglu can transport you back in time to an impossibly chic era (his dream dinner party would include Marlene Dietrich, Oscar Wilde, Truman Capote and Diana Vreeland), his unique ability to take traditional details and modernise them – floor-length dresses come with laid-back pockets, while high necklines are slightly unravelled or undone – ensure his elaborate pieces never veer into costume territory. As for a movie he would have wanted to design costumes for? ‘It would have to be Picnic at Hanging Rock, although the wardrobe is perfect. I would have loved to have a hand in it.’



The Style Report
The Style Report