This is Erdem Moralioglu‘s second menswear season, and his vision of the Erdem man becomes more refined and clear. Handsome, young men standing in an English country garden, against beds of succulent purple and yellow flag irises. With his cinematic eye for glancingly historical biographical references, Moralioglu almost conjured a reincarnation of an everyday scene from the country life of the painter and plantsman Cedric Morris. It was shot at Benton End in rural Suffolk, Morris’s home from 1939, where he created a microcosm of an artistic avant-garde bohemian life with his lover Arthur Lett-Haines, as well as founding an art school. Lucian Freud was an early pupil. Cedric Morris, it turns out, was a friend and supplier of the society florist Constance Spry, who designed the Queen’s Coronation and who had her highly successful shop a few doors down from where the Erdem flagship is now. Connie Spry and her aristocratic clientele are all over his collection. There’s nothing like a romantic coincidence to get Moralioglu going. This one was a pure gift in terms of the colors he loves, inspiration for his boyishly foppish sense of style all the way through to the floppy, blowsy bow ties which seem almost like blooming corsages picked from Morris’s iris beds. The idea for digging into this aristocratic alternative history had actually hit him a little while ago at a Cedric Morris exhibition at the Garden Museum. Even without knowing a thing about this artist, though, you can sense the spirit of the 1940s that Erdem picked up in photos and paintings: Englishmen in hand-knitted sweaters, tweeds, shorts, and silk dressing gowns.
For autumn-winter 2022, Erdem Moralioglu imagined the night lives of four extraordinary women from Berlin’s 1930s arts scene. As silence fell upon a black box inside the Sadler’s Wells, a pianist took to a grand piano and began to play a dramatic solo. From the ceiling, pillars of dusty spotlights shot through the blackened-out room as Erdem’s austere, androgynous, unsettling – and totally beautiful – collection meandered around the arena. “I liked the idea that it was a club, and maybe they were on their way out, like ghosts. It’s the end of the night and they’re trailing away…” he said backstage, before detailing the historical influence that inspired the collection. Following the launch of his second men’s collection in January, Moralioglu wasn’t done exploring its muse, the photographer Madame d’Ora, who embodied the free and alternative spirit of 1930s’ Berlin in a time of political unrest. Imagining how her nightlife might have been, he found another four muses to join her: the painters Jeanne Mammen and Elfriede Lohse-Wächtler, and the dancers Anita Berber and Valeska Gert, who were all contemporaries of d’Ora and personified the cross-dressing, sexually ambiguity, and liberated identities of the time. “There was something about the effect of doing menswear, and the exercise of adding that masculinity into the collection, and maybe thinking of the extremes of femininity and masculinity mixed together,” Moralioglu explained, using Karen Elson’s opening look of a floral-embroidered black men’s coat with a black sequined evening scarf and big leather boots as an illustration of his intentions. It set a muted and reduced mood for the collection, which was mesmerising through an Erdem lens.