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Designers Dish: A Conversation With Erdem

Preta's Merle Ginsberg chats with the dashing designer during his visit to L.A.'s London Showrooms and finds out where he gets a dirty martini when he's in town and which colors never scare him.

LIFE'S A RUNWAY: A selection of looks from Erdem's spring 2014 London Fashion Week show.
Richard Chambury/Invision/AP Images

The first week of November in Los Angeles saw an influx of visiting U.K. designers in town for the British Fashion Council's London Showrooms -- which feature the spring 2014 wares of the British capital’s young and also some more-established designers to stylists and actresses -- with high hopes of said stylists pulling their gowns and cocktail clothes for the upcoming awards season.

Using that approach two years ago worked well for Roksanda Illincic and Peter Pilotto.

On Nov. 8, The British Fashion Council gave one of their great closing-night parties at the Chateau Marmont with a packed house greeting Mary Katrantzou, Justin Thornton and Thea Bregazzi of label Preen, L’Wren Scott (who is American, but now shows in London), model Poppy Delevingne, actresses Stana Katic and Mad Men's Kiernan Shipka (wearing a great spring 2014 Preen dress) – and London designer Erdem, whose magnificent clothes are sold at Saks, Barneys and Net-a-Porter, and in the U.K. at Harvey Nichols, Liberty and Selfridges.

We had the good fortune of grabbing drinks with Erdem (nee Erdem Moralioglulater that week -- also at the Chateau -- where we were amazed to learn that he is only 35 years old  and is, in fact, Canadian. He was born in Montreal to a Canadian mother and a Turkish father before being raised in Birmingham, England. The designer has interned for Vivienne Westwood, and while in New York, he also worked with Diane von Furstenberg. After a stint in American fashion, Erdem returned to London in 2003 to establish his own eponymous line. Bespectacled, with short dark hair, crisp conservative clothes and oversize dark square glasses, his low-key chic and quick-witted intellect – and wonderful design skills – remind us of the young Yves Saint Laurent. ("I dress like my father," he admits to us.)

 

PORTRAIT OF A DESIGNER: Erdem 

 

So you were here for London Showrooms to see stylists and editors?

Yes, and I did a show with Neiman Marcus’ Ken Downing at Neiman’s Beverly Hills this week. We showed my spring 2014 and resort collections.

How many times have you been to L.A.?

This is my third. I really like Los Angeles -- even though it’s not like any conventional major city. L.A.’s an interesting place. The non-walking thing. Still, on this trip, I discovered the vitamin store Earth Bar, and went to some amazing places with some of my L.A. friends. I got taken to this extraordinary place last night – Musso & Frank! I had filet mignon, shrimp cocktail and a dirty martini. It was amazing to see the Charlie Chaplin and Marilyn Monroe booths. The whole scenario there is out of a David Lynch movie. My great friend Liz Goldwyn, who lives here, took me to Axe in Venice for the nine-grain pancakes. And then I went to LACMA for the James Turrell show yesterday. There’s so much energy to the art world here now. A friend of mine rented a Mustang convertible and we did the windblown thing. I also went to Barneys to see how they show my collection. They picked me up very early on. I’ve been in that store for eight years.

You rarely use your Turkish last name...

Well, who can pronounce Moralioglu?

STORY: A Conversation With Carolina Herrera 

How did you become a fashion designer? What first inspired you?

My mother dressed very simply – but chicly. She might wear something very plain, then wear red lipstick. I was always fascinated, even as a little boy, by the nuances of femininity. Obsessed, really. Maybe because I grew up with a twin sister. I loved to watch how women carried themselves. And in Canada, we had two great fashion journalists I grew up following: Tim Blanks (who now writes for Style.com) and Jeanne Beker.

You’re known for your feminine silhouettes and of course, for prints, prints and more prints. Do you create your own fabrics?

Absolutely. I’ve been working with various mills for years in Italy to develop new techniques with duchesse, lace, wool, laser cutting. But I am not all about print. I do love color, but I’m not afraid of black or white. That is the palette of my spring 2014 collection – I think it rather shocked people. For me, it’s about fabric always – but also about movement, weight and lightness. I use different languages – not all print.

VIDEO: Fashion Doc 'Versailles '73: American Runway Revolution' Now Available on iTunes

Do you have any thoughts on how dressing has changed with celebrities on the Hollywood red carpet?

Not so much. But I have worked with wonderful talent. It so depends on who, what, where. I love working with a woman who’s amazing. That’s my ideal criteria.

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Story photo courtesy of Karla Otto

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