Erdem Moralioglu: A man for all seasons

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

Erdem Moralioglu has transformed the girlish garden print into a modern fashion statement, beloved by everyone from Keira Knightley to Michelle Obama. He talks to Carola Long

So verdant that you can practically smell the petals, Erdem's prints are the freshest take on the summer dress this season.

The London Fashion Week designer has successfully moved the classic garment away from any lingering associations with Laura Ashley or Hyacinth Bucket, and turned it into something both pretty and modern. More cool cocktail party than the Queen's garden party.

"Accidentally beautiful," is how Erdem Moralioglu describes his aesthetic, and it's this sweet, unaffected prettiness that has won over women who normally 'don't do florals'. That, and the fact that his silhouettes tend to be clean and graphic – all the better to offset the intricacy of his designs. "There's all these flowers and it could be quite saccharine," he says, "but actually there is something quite strong and graphic about them."

However, you don't need to buy designer clothes to feel his influence. All those blurred, digital, or meadow-flower prints on the high street – such a breath of fresh air after the fierce Eighties shapes and colours of the previous season – have been inspired by the impeccably well-mannered and modest 32-year-old with 1940's librarian hair and heavy glasses. What these homages don't have, however – and this is where the designer has cleverly made himself rip-off proof – is Erdem's attention to detail, his combination of imagination, painstaking craftsmanship and quality; he uses lace from Sophie Hallette, which supplies many of the couture houses. And Erdem's dresses aren't just about print; his spring/summer collection included a dress made from overlapping three-dimensional petals in shades of pink, lilac and lime green, and taffeta dresses in cornflower blue and coral appliquéd with delicate pieces of scattered black French lace.

His printing technique involves the designer playing around creatively on his computer for hours, digitally altering prints by blurring them or re-sizing them, painting over them and destroying them. "It's always quite a lengthy, organic process and we never really know what the end result will be," Erdem says. "The previous season had been quite blurred, and this time we wanted something really saturated and hyper-real in a weird kind of way."

The starting point for the collection came from a trip to Kyoto in Japan, where he found Japanese studies of English flowers and illustrations of "modan garus" – a phonetic Japanese translation of "modern girls" – who in the 1920s eschewed kimonos and started wearing Western dress.

"They were financially independent, sexually liberated women, and that started me on this whole kind of trip," he says. "I loved the idea of women taking apart a kimono and putting it back together again, and that was the starting point for some of the dresses."

The prints in the spring/summer collection – which range from intense Chelsea-Flower-Show-on-acid profusions of brightly coloured pansies to monochrome patterns – could give the impression that Erdem is London Fashion Week's answer to Alan Titchmarsh. That's not the case, though: "I'm not hugely into gardening," he says. "In fact our garden looks very much like Chernobyl."

Erdem's studio is in East London, the established stomping/training ground for young British designers. However, like Christopher Kane, based in the same area, Erdem has successfully moved beyond the London Fashion Week stereotype of young, East London scenesters making imaginative but sometimes difficult-to-wear creations. He designs clothes with such finesse and attention to detail that they are desired all over the world. Erdem's 35 stockists include Barneys, Saks Fifth Avenue and Harvey Nichols in Hong Kong.

The sophisticated, universal appeal of Erdem's dresses and skirts – he's not really a trousers kind of designer – is evident from who's worn them and to what occasions. Sarah Brown increased her fashion credibility tenfold when she chose an abstract-print Erdem dress for the Labour Party Conference last autumn; Samantha Cameron wore his designs throughout the election campaign and asked him to design diaries for Smythson last autumn; and Michelle Obama has worn one of his watercolour floral skirts. Away from politics, on the more overtly glamorous red carpet, Claudia Schiffer, Keira Knightley and Romola Garai have all worn his dresses. Although Erdem has said in the past that he was "thrilled" to see Anna Wintour wear one to a gala in New York, today he's more philosophical about the real effect of celebrity endorsement, asking: "Have you ever bought something because someone famous has worn it? No. I think that's true across the board. Women buy things because they have an emotional response to it and they think it will look good."

This sense for modern femininity over trends, and the potential for establishing an enduring label, were among the reasons Erdem won the first British Fashion Council and Vogue Designer Fund in March. Worth £200,000, it's the largest sum ever awarded to a fashion designer in the UK – by a long way – and is intended to help designers create a viable business as well as beautiful clothes. Although it's by far the biggest financial award Erdem has received, it's by no means the only accolade he has under his belt. He won the 2007 Swarovski BFC Fashion Enterprise Award, followed by the BFC's Fashion Forward Award in 2008.

Born to a Turkish father and English mother and raised in Montreal, Erdem moved to London to attend the Royal College of Art, where he received his master's degree in 2003. After graduating he relocated to New York to work in Diane Von Furstenberg's design studio, before returning to London to launch his eponymous label in 2005. He says he always wanted to become a designer; aged six, after his parents took him to see The Nutcracker in Montreal, he came home and designed clothes out of paper for the cast. Were his parents impressed? "I think they were a bit worried," he laughs.

Erdem can't remember wanting to work in any area other than fashion, and the only ambition he can think of right now is to have a shop in either London or Paris. Would he want to show in Paris? "I'm very happy in London," he says. Thanks to his irresistibly romantic vision, London is very happy to have him.

Arts and Entertainment
Game Of Thrones
Uh-oh, winter is coming. Ouch, my eyes! Ygritte’s a goner. Lysa’s a goner. Tywin’s a goner. Look, a dragon
tvSpoiler warning: The British actor says viewers have 'not seen the last' of his character
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvOnly remaining original cast-member to leave long-running series
The Etihad Stadium, home of Manchester City
premier league

The Independent's live blog of today's Premier League action

Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Polly Borgen at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2012
peopleThe Emmy award-winner starred in Cape Fear, the Sopranos and Desperate House Wives
FootballGerman sparks three goals in four minutes at favourite No 10 role
Rumer was diagnosed with bipolarity, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder: 'I was convinced it was a misdiagnosis'
peopleHer debut album caused her post-traumatic stress - how will she cope as she releases her third record?
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: 'Time Heist' sees a darker side to Peter Capaldi's Doctor
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Dennis Rodman has confirmed he is not going to the Middle East to 'talk to with the leaders of Isis' as claimed in a recent satirical report
people'Bring It On' actress says her legal team will combat the 'vultures'
Radamel Falcao was forced to withdraw from the World Cup after undergoing surgery
premier leagueExclusive: Reds have agreement with Monaco
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
A long jumper competes in the 80-to-84-year-old age division at the 2007 World Masters Championships
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Fashion

    Nursery Nurse

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: Level 3 Nursery Nurse required for ...

    Nursery Nurse

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: L3 Nursery Nurses urgently required...

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: We have a number of schools based S...

    SEN Teaching Assistant

    Negotiable: Randstad Education Manchester: SEN Teaching Assistant required in ...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam