We have Marianne North to thank for the intensely lovely collection Erdem Moralioglu showed. At least, it was she—a brilliant Victorian botanical researcher, traveler, and artist—who caught his imagination and sent him off to the jungle, via the hothouses of Kew Gardens, for spring. “I was thinking about a woman studying botany in an insular way in one of those conservatories; and then about her going out all over the world, to all those exotic places. Then she got lost or something,” he said, laughing. “So it becomes a bit unhinged at the end.”
And what beautiful things grew out of that exploration: exquisite embroideries of palm fronds and other greenery, patterns of trellises and glass-house ironwork, Victorian broderie anglaise dresses. There is something both sensitive and driven about the way Erdem works. The more he concentrates on his own way of seeing, and the less he’s diverted by worrying about “fashion,” the better he gets. He’s a conviction designer, but not one of those who (pardon the pun) is a hothouse flower. Erdem’s a guy who gets and does his social fieldwork. His study of what girls want to wear, and how they want to wear it, is detailed and accurate.
He balanced the romantic volumes of his skirts and the fragile trimmings (tiny covered buttons running down the deep V of a neckline, for example) with black oxfords or cross-laced flat Roman sandals (all courtesy of his longtime and burgeoning collaboration with Nicholas Kirkwood). It gave the show a refreshing sense of movement and modernity and a proportion that became so right that by the end, it was the few pairs of high heels that started to look a bit off.
We should also add that the craftsmanship that goes into Erdem’s clothes is of a level that could rival a respectable Paris couture house. When it got to the part of the story where the Victorian lady’s expedition had gone deep into the jungle, her clothes began to acquire feathers, which sprouted miraculously out of patches of lace on bodices and coats. Bravo to him.