Erdem Moralioglu is a mouthful of a name. It doesn’t roll off the tongue the way, for example, Christopher Kane or Gareth Pugh does. But Moralioglu is the best young British designer people should be talking about. Though he arrived on the scene at roughly the same time as Kane and Pugh—as part of the new vanguard that reignited London Fashion Week—the latter two have whiplashed an international audience to attention with saucy sex appeal and perverse shock value, while Moralioglu has traded on something quieter: straight-up beautiful clothes.
Not that he’s gone entirely unnoticed. Moralioglu has certainly turned heads within the Brit clique, picking up a Fashion Fringe award for a capsule collection in 2005 and the British Fashion Council’s Fashion Enterprise award two years later. Still, he deserves a shout-out for sticking to his pretty guns.
“I’m a little romantic,” he says by phone from his studio in London’s Shoreditch neighborhood. It’s a fairly innocuous statement for a designer who specializes in feminine dresses, yet Moralioglu immediately wonders if it will sound bad in print, something he does nervously and needlessly throughout the interview. Whether he fears coming off as corny or perhaps simple is unclear, but either way, the Victorian ruffles, French lace and luxurious silk chiffon gowns that define his collection, known simply as Erdem, could hardly be considered a liability. At least Keira Knightley didn’t think so when she donned a deep violet pleated silk and rosette confection from the fall collection for the UK premiere party for The Edge of Love in June.
Though he was raised in Montreal, Moralioglu’s work is steeped in a traditional English sensibility, something he credits to his mother—“a really stylish lady, always cultured,” who grew up in Birmingham, England—and her affinity for PBS. “She was such an Anglophile,” he says. “She was really obsessed with keeping us up on Masterpiece Theatre and all those Merchant Ivory films. I grew up watching TV in the basement in Canada, totally immersed in this romanticized idea of what England was.”
After earning a B.A. in fashion from Ryerson University in Toronto, Moralioglu indulged his British fashion fancies, first as an intern at Vivienne Westwood, where he embraced archive duty and the opportunity to examine Westwood’s collection of corsetry by Mr. Pearl (also known as Mark Pullin, the South African–born, Paris-based corsetiere to the stars), and next at London’s Royal College of Art, where he won a spot in the M.A. program. He holds his time at RCA near and dear. So much so that he has not only gone back to teach a master’s class there, but he can also often be found in the Royal College library, researching prints and various inspirations on his Mac PowerBook. “I always try to get the same seat,” he says. Indeed, his heart is in London. Even a postgrad stint on Diane von Furstenberg’s design team couldn’t keep him away for long: “I moved to New York and was there for exactly a year to the day.”