Future Fashion Master
Canadian fashion designer Erdem may be inspired by his Turkish roots but, as Jeanne Beker finds, he is a hit around the globe
Erdem is a global hit
FLORALS WILL BE EVERYWHERE this fall, but Montreal-born, London-based Erdem Moralioglu has long been aware of their irresistible appeal. In fact, it’s those very kinds of feminine prints and intricate embroideries that have become the designer’s signature since he launched his debut collection in the UK in 2005. Known simply as “Erdem,” the 40-year-old fashion visionary has become one of Canada’s most celebrated fashion exports and, judging by the legion of celebrities who adore his designs, he’s also one of fashion’s hottest talents. From Nicole Kidman and Emma Stone, to the Duchess of Cambridge, Michelle Obama and Sophie Gregoire Trudeau, stylish women look to Erdem for his statement-making, upbeat pieces. “It’s a great privilege to have the opportunity to dress these amazing, intelligent, creative women,” says the appreciative designer. “And one of the nicest things is to be able to see your work out of the context of a catwalk or an editorial, and to actually see it being worn by these women.”
A graduate of Ryerson University’s Fashion School, Erdem moved to London to intern for Vivienne Westwood before enrolling at the Royal College of Art. He then worked with Diane Von Furstenberg in New York City before launching his own collection in 2005. It was an instant hit, and luxury retailers clamoured to buy the line. By 2010, Erdem won the coveted British Fashion Council/vogue Designer Fashion Fund award: a whopping £200,000! And his star continues to rise. This past April, Erdem was presented with the Canadian Arts and Fashion Award (CAFA) for Best International Designer. Toronto’s Suzanne Rogers, a philanthropist and the head of the new Suzanne Rogers Fashion Institute at Ryerson, and her daughter Chloe, presented Erdem with the award. Rogers notes that the designer’s heritage, being raised by an English mother and a Turkish father, shines through in his work. “He combines delicate sophistication and exquisite craftsmanship with bold vivacity. He’s of the world, but I’m so proud that we can call him ours!” says Rogers.
I had the privilege of wearing Erdem when I covered Kate Middleton and Prince William’s wedding: a soft aqua and coral flower print sheath dress, reminiscent of a Monet painting. It was Nicholas Mellamphy, the former creative director of The Room, who first dressed me in Erdem, turning me on to his artful wares. Mellamphy was introduced to the designer while he was still a student at Ryerson. “The fact that his brilliance as a designer was immediately evident was a blessing,” says Mellamphy. “But it’s his humility that’s taken him to the next level and allowed the world to embrace his work.”
Once dubbed “Britain’s answer to Christian Lacroix,” Erdem has been generous when it comes to honouring his Canadian roots, and visited Toronto in 2014 to speak with fashion students about what it takes to make it on the world stage. He credited his late parents for much of his success. “I feel that my parents instilled in us a kind of fearlessness,” he told me, “a feeling that you could do whatever you want to do, and that was the most important thing. And to a certain extent I felt rootless in a way, because half of my family was in England and the other half was in Turkey. My twin sister and I were the only Canadians in our family. And I think with that, you find yourself adapting to different situations,” Erdem reflected. “I look back at how I started the company when I was 27. And age may have something to do with it. You’re kind of fearless when you’re younger, so it’s that. Ignorance is bliss.”
“It’s a great privilege to have the opportunity to dress these amazing, intelligent, creative women”