Star in the making: Designer Erdem Moralioglu

His studio may be in Bethnal Green, but rising star Erdem's fabulous, jewel-hued creations are more red carpet than East End, writes Bethan Cole

Erdem Moralioglu's studio, a long white room just off Bethnal Green Road, is quietly buzzing with activity. On a vast cutting table, one of his staff is tinkering with a purple pleated-silk dress. "I'm just dressing Keira Knightley for a premiere on Thursday," explains Erdem, proudly waving his hand over the purple material. "We're just altering the dress for her – we had the fitting and it was a little bit too big."

Erdem, who lives and works under his first name, returns to his desk, a large white table straining with fashion monographs (Madame Grès, Lanvin, Diana Vreeland's Allure) and bits of paper. Above, on the wall, there's a glass case displaying rows of jewel-hued butterflies. Under the desk, there's a taxidermist's stuffed fox. Behind his squarish glasses, Erdem, now 30, is handsome in a Mediterranean, olive-skinned way. He's also incredibly low-key: cool and calm, logical and rational, even a little shy. His visions of impossible elegance and riotous colour are far more grandiose than his restrained, contemplative demeanour.

And his visions are truly elegant. His critically acclaimed autumn/ winter 2008 collection, shown in Bluebird on the King's Road, was a festival of colour. Full-length, strapless, double duchesse-silk ball gowns in zinging canary-yellow; that Keira Knightley amethyst dress sprouting corsage-like flowers around the bust; vivid-green cocktail dresses digital-printed with blurry birds and flowers. These were clothes for parties and soirées and fabulous occasions, or defiantly upbeat day dressing, characterised by eye-popping pattern and colour. "I like the idea of colour for winter," he says of his bold palette of citron yellows, regal purples and chlorophyll greens. "It's quite necessary in a way. I like colour a lot, and I've always admired other designers who are colourists."

Touch the fabrics, which almost have a neoprene, techy look about them, and they are impossibly luxurious. "I worked with an old Italian mill called Taroni," he explains, "and I picked these great duchesse fabrics. They had an amazing palette to choose from. We're fabric-based at the beginning. That's how we piece the collection together."

The neat, curvilinear shapes: bloused sleeves, slightly retro funnel necks and vast billowing rounded skirts, only serve to accentuate the chic quality of the colourful fabrics. And his digital prints – three in the autumn/winter collection – are less obvious than the straightforward florals and nature pictures that he manipulates to create these slightly obfuscated patterns. "I take recognisable things, like a bouquet of flowers, and smudge and distort them on my Mac," he enthuses. "I want to recreate the idea of movement and memory you have on a train." The green print originally depicted a crow with rotting fruit. "But it's distorted so you can't see what it is. We also did a bizarre acidic paisley."

Lace features, too, and there's one cascading, floor-length, ecru Miss Havisham "waterfall" dress, with vertical strips of violent yellow on the shoulders. "I love lace, there's something regal and refined about it. It's interesting to use it in a modern way – juxtaposing a menswear shape or a military shape with a fabric that's so soft and feminine. That's why I gave the 'waterfall' dress Blade Runner shoulders."

I wonder if there's an Erdem woman ghosting these heavenly silhouettes. Certainly Keira Knightley, Chloë Sevigny and Kirsten Dunst have all worn his creations. "The Erdem woman has remained the same, she has never been concerned with being cool," he muses. "She's quite seasonless, in a way. She's a woman who does what she wants and is strong.

"It's a distinct idea of a woman I have in my head, but it's almost an imaginary figure that happens in the process of creation rather than at the end." I press him for names of muses, but he won't specify. "It's going to sound so Oedipal, but my mum was so well dressed and lovely, she was quite important."

Erdem was brought up with his twin sister (who now works in the BBC's natural-history department) on the picturesque shores of Lake St Louis in suburban Canada. His father, who was of Turkish origin, worked as a chemical engineer, and his English mother was a housewife. His parents are no longer alive, and you sense he feels the loss acutely. "My mum was a complete Anglophile," he recalls, and growing up, he watched lots of Merchant Ivory films. "I had this romantic vision of what Britain was. I loved costumes and museums, and when we visited, we went to places like Madame Tussauds and Warwick Castle."

Erdem studied fashion design at a small Canadian university, then, in 2000, moved to London. He did a brief internship at Vivienne Westwood, then secured a British Council scholarship to do a MA at the Royal College of Art. He graduated in 2003, and went on to win Fashion Fringe in 2004, did a stint working for Diane von Furstenberg in New York, and showed his first collection under his own name in 2005. "I always wanted my own label," he says, and now has four full-time and three freelance employees. Last year he won the British Fashion Council Enterprise Award.

For a designer with such a focused vision, Erdem's inspirations are diverse. "My top three fashion influences are Yves Saint Laurent, for his sensitivity, use of colour and devotion to making women elegant; Mainbocher, who designed some of Wallis Simpson's clothes, and did great embellished dresses; and Charles James because of the way he cut."

It remains to be seen whether Erdem will join these greats in the fashion history books. But without a doubt, he has made an extremely promising start.

i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
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

    Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

    salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

    Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

    Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

    Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

    Day In a Page

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower