Some designers speak with lashings of references to “I” or “Me”. Some use the brand associated “we”. Erdem Moralioglu talks about “her” and “she”. “She” is the girl or woman (or someone in between) that is in Erdem’s mind constantly, as he designs collections and builds sets around her. For A/W 15-6 she was an eclectic American ingenue with a charmingly scatty apartment filled with issues of Paris Match, with typewriters, record players and stiff drinks lying about (designed by artist Robin Brown). She’d go about her way in a cacophony of shaggy tweeds, frayed chiffon contrasted with metallic brocades and fine lace in rich plummy shades of pinks, purples, greens and reds.
That deliciously tactile collection now hangs in Erdem’s debut flagship store on South Audley Street. More than just a retail space, this is the place where “she” would hang out. “I love how the space is about “her”,” said Erdem, as we sat down on a comfortable teal velvet conversation chaise that dominates the basement of the store. “It’s her Mayfair pied–à-terre. We looked at it forensically – what would it smell like, what would she look at?”
Erdem, together with his partner Phillip Joseph or architecture firm P. Joseph, took an obsessive look at every material and object that would grace this former rug shop as the Mayfair surroundings and the past of the store informed the interior treatment. “Philip was dealing with some beautiful bones in the store – it was part respecting what was here and then part injecting a sense of the personal into it,” explained Erdem. This is where Erdem’s “she” gets to really expand her world of interiors through the prism of the designer’s imagination and personal taste. “She” would be reading books on horticulture and photography. “She” would hang up a mixture of art spanning from early 20th century oddities by German painter Dodo to Andy Warhol sketches to David Hockney collages to watercolour portraits by British sculptor Daniel Silver. “She” needs a lot of green in her life and so oversized house plants become the focal point as soon as you enter the store and downstairs, there’s a fern-filled greenhouse growing in the subterranean tiled spaces. “She” has the most spacious changing rooms I’ve ever seen in order to try on Erdem’s dresses, complete with velvet banquettes and a vague view of the world outside through traditional glass tiles.
“We were really keen on the space feeling individual and warm,” explains Erdem. “I didn’t want it to feel gallery like.” Even the custom duck egg blue on the walls goes against the norm store grain to have clothes sit in sterile fashion against white walls. At this point, Erdem’s “she” pops up again in his thoughts. “I want to understand how that silk carpet feels underneath her bare feet. What chair would she sit in? Maybe she’d make breakfast here wearing that dress…”
These all sound like fanciful details that might be lost on the average customer but as our interview progressed, an impossibly chic lady and her teenage daughter gingerly hover around Erdem. She’s eager to tell him how much she loves his clothes and the store. She’s a discerning customer who can separate her fil coupé from her flocking. And she, like many of Erdem’s well-to-do clientale will appreciate those Harper Alto chairs and Michael Anastassiades light fittings. The face to face interaction with customers is already g-ing Erdem up, as this first store will undoubtedly tell him even more about who “she” is. “We had our first sale within the first hour of opening last week. I literally handed her the shopping bag. She bought a brocade top and a dress and I said “Thank you so much for being our first customer!”
This stretch of Mayfair, from South Audley Street leading up to Mount Street is fast becoming a destination for the success stories of London Fashion Week as Christopher Kane, Nicholas Kirkwood and Roksanda are already present, with Simone Rocha and now Erdem joining the fray. For Erdem, the history of the area was as much of a draw as being associated with the luxury brands that have set up shop here. “Mayfair was the only place we looked at. There’s a wonderful history to this area. Coco Chanel lived round the corner. I love that Thomas Goode is across the street. It’s wonderful to share the same area with those British designers but also Celine and Balenciaga. It’s testament to London Fashion Week and how diverse the talent is here.”
That diversity prompted me to ask Erdem a question that could easily be mis-construed. Since setting up his own label back in 2005, Erdem has worked hard on a signature style that doesn’t shy away from unabashed femininity or prettiness – qualities that perhaps London’s edgier designers eschew. How has Erdem dealt with standing out on his own and following an aesthetic path that maybe doesn’t conform to London’s subversive standard? “Ten years ago, either you were all black or a raved up neon club kid. It was fuelled by those parties like Boombox and Ponystep. If you look at my MA collection, it’s my handwriting. If I wrote something punky, it would always be pretty. I love the idea of taking prettiness and fraying it and twisting it somehow. Certainly at the beginning, it was harder to get people to understand what you were trying to do and I did march to my own drum a bit.”
Sticking to his guns and standing out has clearly paid dividends and the legions of fans, who rave about his clothes as well as this beautiful jewel of a store are testament to that. As an independently built up business without outsider investment, how far can Erdem go? “I love the idea of opening up more stores. This flagship store could apply to a store in New York or a concession. It will grow and I find that exciting. There are also areas in the collection that There’s still so many places for her to go.” And where “she” goes, many will follow.
Erdem flagship store now open on 70 South Audley Street, W1K 2RA
Erdem’s A/W 15-6 set and collection: