Designer Erdem Moralioglu brings the fairytale back to fashion, drawing inspiration from stories found in literature, art, and world history for his stunning collections. His clothes, including a collection made in collaboration with H&M, play with vintage prints, patterns, colors, and shapes. Named by British tabloids as one of Meghan Markle’s favorite designers, Erdem creates clothes that are unabashedly feminine with a contemporary edge.
In addition to his status as a fashion world phenomenon, Erdem has cultivated a reputation as an art aficionado. In 2016 he partnered with Sotheby’s to guest-curate a sale of contemporary art in London. The designer is an ardent collector of books, fine art, furniture, and photography. He began to collect first edition books while at university, and describes that time as a catalyst in his collecting, saying, “That’s when things became more serious for me with my collecting.”
Today, Erdem’s personal collection includes a wide variety of objects ranging from early 20th century work by German painter Dodo to watercolors by British sculptor Daniel Silver, sketches by Andy Warhol, photographs by Wolfgang Tillmans, and David Hockney collages. We spoke with the fashion designer and Invaluable shopper about his approach to collecting and his constant search for inspiration.
Erdem’s first rule when searching for things to add to his art collection is to keep an open mind. Rather than restricting himself to a set of rules, the designer relies on gut instinct: “You should only bid so far. It’s the same as knowing when to press a button and when to let go.” When asked if he’s made any regrettable purchases, he laughed and said, “Only a few that have been much bigger, or much smaller, than I expected!”
In order to find unique pieces, Erdem tells us he prefers to buy online or deal directly with auction houses. The designer does much of his research and buying from his East London studio. “What I love about Invaluable,” he said, “is that you can expand your search and find auctions in, say, Holland and Denmark. I found a wonderful portrait by a Dutch painter named George Breitner, who’s famous for girls in kimonos.”
When traveling, Erdem seeks out the best markets in each city. He cites the Vanves flea market in Paris as the cooler, less touristy cousin of the well-known Puces de Saint-Ouen. In London, he is a committed patron of the legendary Mayfair bookshop, Heywood Hill, where English novelist and journalist Nancy Mitford once worked, and Broadway Market’s Donlon Books.
Among his most exciting finds is a piece from the estate of the Duke & Duchess of Windsor, which was part of Artcurial’s June 2017 Fashion Arts sale. The designer purchased a portrait of Wallis Simpson along with some table linens and miniature paintings. “That’s why Invaluable is great,” Erdem says, “It’s a platform where you can explore freely; you can find a beautiful portrait of Wallis Simpson, but at the same time you can find a wonderful bench designed by Finn Juhl.”
Like any dedicated collector, Erdem’s philosophy goes beyond the aesthetic value of his pieces; he is a collector and disseminator of stories. The designer takes a similar approach when searching for fashion inspiration. When describing the strategy for both fashion and art collections, Erdem says, “You have to be quite fearless when you explore, because you don’t know what you’re going to find.”
While working on his Spring 2018 collection, Erdem was invited to conduct research at Windsor Castle and Buckingham Palace, where he examined artifacts from the Queen’s wardrobe. It was there he discovered that jazz legend Duke Ellington met Her Majesty in 1958 and that Ellington wrote her a piece of music. This story became the basis for his collection, and The Queen’s Suite played during the finale of the fashion show.
“I’m not necessarily searching because I’m looking for inspiration for a collection, but my eyes are always open… one thing feeds into the other. It’s ‘visual food,’ so to speak.” Erdem may be spellbound by stories from history, but when it comes to his own collections, “It’s less about the backstory than it is about the narrative happening inside my head.”
At the rate he collects, the designer may be running out of wall space for his pieces. “At the moment, everything’s propped up against the wall. The collection is in something of a state of perpetual reorganization.” Nevertheless, he will continue to expand for his Mayfair store. The shop is designed by Erdem’s partner, architect Philip Joseph, and showcases books, art, photography, and furniture from Erdem’s personal collection.
The designer’s collection is arranged among prominent houseplants and his clothes create the perfect atmosphere for Erdem’s fictional muse, who he simply refers to as “She.” Guests at his dream dinner party, he told Matches, would include Marlene Dietrich, Oscar Wilde, Truman Capote and Diana Vreeland.
Erdem’s penchant for building collections continues in his most recent venture: organizing his fashion archive. Because of his collecting, he understands the importance of a rigorous approach to cataloging and storing his own work. His graduate show at the Royal College of Art was in 2003 but, he says, “It’s already a case of rebuilding it. There are so many things that have gone missing; I find myself looking back and wondering who, what, why, where, when?” With exciting opportunities on the horizon, building out an archive provides the designer and his colleagues with a valuable tool for research, retrospection, and inspiration for future projects. The project will doubtless serve as visual food for other dedicated collectors for decades to come.