A Classic Romance. Erdem SS21

In Erdem‘s world, nothing has changed – at least, at a first glance. Here, women are still dressing up and wear magnificent dresses that have a romantic, elegant side. But the period of confinement did have an impact on Erdem Moralioglu. It reads like a mad experiment: Erdem Moralioglu in his London house for four months, with denied access to the museums and libraries that oxygenate his storyteller mind, and throw in a Susan Sontag novel. “It begins with three people dancing on the lip of a volcano,” the designer said of the collection he authored and drew in quarantine. Inspired by The Volcano Lover, Sontag’s portrait of the 18th-century beauty Emma Hamilton, who married a volcanologist obsessed with Grecian vases and had a passionate love affair with Lord Nelson, this was how Moralioglu coped with everything that happened this spring. “There was something about this odd time that we’re living in, and the idea that there is something so much bigger than all of us that controls everything,” Moralioglu said, drawing a parallel between crises past and present. “It’s beauty in a time that’s very ugly, and the idea of creating something decadent with an underbelly of something poor.” He expressed that sentiment in a meeting between formal and informal: a trans-historical voyage that referenced Grecian nymph shift dresses through the lens of the puff-sleeved empire silhouette, a sprinkling of Nelsonian regalia, and a cameo by Susan Sontag’s post-modern cardigan. Many of his embroidered muslin and organza dresses and 18th-century floral jacquard numbers were treated with crinkling effects to evoke a sense of “poor,” which means something quite different in Moralioglu’s dainty world than it does to the rest of us. But within the folds of those fabrics, there was a feeling of resourcefulness, which illustrated the idea of beauty in a time of uncertainty. Some pieces looked as if they’d been spliced with other pieces, Nelson’s admiral jackets and grosgrain regalia had a scent of thriftiness about them, and opera coats seemed to morph into khaki utility-wear. Then, a sturdy denim bottom popped up, posing as a chic pencil skirt. But still, Erdem is all about eveningwear. “I get asked the same question: Are women’s tastes and wants changing now, given the situation? On the contrary, we have a customer who’s still buying special pieces. It’s the want for something you can wear in five and 10 years. As I enter my 15th year doing this, the most thrilling thing is seeing someone wearing your work from 10 years ago. I’ve always been obsessed with permanence,” Moralioglu asserted. “When it feels like the end of the world, doesn’t someone need a pink moiré hand-embroidered gown?

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Cecil Beaton. Erdem AW20

Erdem’s autumn-winter 2020 collection brought old-school glamour fit for a modern-day dame. Learning that “Beaton, Bright Young Things” – a show of Cecil Beaton’s twenties and thirties portraits of dazzlingly glamorous socialites – is opening at the National Portrait Gallery (co-incidentally the label’s frequent show venue) in March meant that Erdem Moralioglu’s inspiration was right there. Some of his takings from Beaton were literal. Look one – a black slicker mackintosh – was directly in honor of a photo of the aesthete Stephen Tennant. And then there was a direct replication of the pearl-festooned flapper dress, look 30, “in which Beaton photographed himself,” said Moralioglu. Tissue lamé and silvery lace dresses ensued. There were also black and white checkerboard prints inspired by Beaton’s early backdrops; echoes of the celluloid frills and fancy-dress rose-strewn brocades; and a nod to the Pierrot pajama suit that was one of the photographer’s role-playing costumes. But if not knowing any of this, you can as well place this collection on the list of season’s best eveningwear. The lime-green, silk dress with subtle floral embroideries worn by Grace Bol is my ultimate favourite.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.

Tina Modotti. Erdem SS20

This season, Erdem Moralioglu‘s collection was inspired by Tina Modotti, who photographed Mexico’s sights and people’s daily life, simultaneously participating in bohemian circles with Mexican intellectuals and artists such as Frida Kahlo and Diego Rivera. Erdem characterized his spring-summer 2020 muse as “a romantic and revolutionary, a woman of principle. Each outfit was like a postcard from a part of her life.” The pictures of Modotti’s life were the main reference behind Erdem’s voluminous, vibrant proportions, the exaggerated shape of yoke blouses, hand-made floral embroideries and the gorgeous fringed shawls. “It was the waistless-ness, tiers, the combination of Victorian dress and traditional dress that interested me,” he said. The season’s colours appeared to be as bold as the silhouette. Erdem had spent time at the Casa Luis Barragán in Mexico City, which already suggests the palette: the amazing, saturated cardamom, yellows, and pinks. Stunning.

Collage by Edward Kanarecki.