Last Friday, British designer Erdem Moralioglu sat down with Neiman Marcus fashion director Ken Downing at the store’s Beverly Hills location for a chat about his latest collections, along with a little show and tell.
Known for his ladylike yet moody creations, Moralioglu trotted out a few looks from fall, resort and spring, all of which touched upon what the designer called “codes of femininity.” Standouts included a bordeaux wool crepe dress with a sky blue collar and matching peekaboo lining, and a hand-painted quilted leather biker jacket with an ornate floral detail — both exactly the kinds of pieces that might pique the interest of fans like Keira Knightley, Michelle Obama, Texas Senator Wendy Davis and Kate Middleton. We got some time of our own with Moralioglu at the event to discuss the Erdem woman, the evolution of his collections, and the color yellow.
Do you think of an “Erdem woman” when you design?
If there is an Erdem woman, she is the same woman who existed when I was a student. To me, she has always been someone who has lived in my sketchbook. I draw constantly, and I’m always trying to figure out each collection, which I do through illustration. So [the Erdem woman] has never been a concrete muse or a target audience.
The women who wear your clothes are so diverse. When you see that variety in reality, does that change how you see your woman in your sketchbook?
The more I see the physical manifestations of [the Erdem woman], the more I almost know less about her. Who is this woman? She exists in France, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles. I feel like she evolves each season with me. We walk together.
As I draw her, the characteristics she has are the things I find interesting for the collection. It is always quite reactive to what I’ve done in the past and it is also quite narrative. I feel that every collection I do is a story.
What are some stories you’ve told with your recent collections?
Last fall was very dark and kind of Ingmar Bergman. Resort  was about escape and the 1950s and these weird sort of upholstery fabrics and youthfulness. Spring  was about black and white and this very monochromatic palette.
Many people talked about Spring 2014 as being such a departure for you because of that exact palette. Did you feel it was?
Yes and no. In a way, it is very much part of my overall line. When people see that collection up close, it has less of that kind of, “Whoa, this seems different” feeling. The black and white was very much a reaction to the color [of resort]. It was a natural next chapter to the escape of that. I feel like I am constantly reacting with and against myself.
For Fall 2014, should we expect more of the stark darks and lights or a return to warmer hues and more floral prints?
It’s funny. I think back to my first collection that was kind of a lot of gray flannel and black with weird shots of yellow in it. Well, I have a weird thing with yellow. But that’s a story for another time.
Wait, what’s your “thing” with yellow?
I have this strange affinity for it. Yellow continues in some form in my collections — always. I have just always really loved it. I painted my room yellow when I was a kid. I’m sorry, what were we talking about? I just really love yellow!
Back to Fall, will we continue to see the evolution we saw in Spring?
Everything has to be an evolution — everything has to be moving towards something next. At the same time, there are elements of your woman you bring forward inevitably because it’s your own handwriting. It is like recognizing a painting by a particular person, or a song or a book. You recognize the voice. So even if the voice is in black and white, for example, when you see it up close, you recognize that voice.
Speaking of books, Erdem has always felt like it has a literary, character-driven bent. Do you feel like that’s apt?
Absolutely. For spring, I was so inspired by the idea of this girl that dresses up as a boy for boarding school or this boy who dresses up as a girl. It was a lot about this weird cross-pollination of genders. I love the idea of dresses and things that have secret notes and poems. I literally had a dress that had quotes from Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman written around the armholes. I like the idea of having to exchange a thought between two people but via clothes.
What else inspires you?
At the beginning of the season, when I was in the studio surrounded by all of these toiles and this white calico, there was something so right about it. Seeing the simplicity of the form and the shape and the silhouette just felt really liberating and beautiful.