Q&A with Fashion Designer Erdem

Hugely influential womenswear designer Erdem talks fashion, The Bay and Vancouver style.

Credit: Boo George

Designer expat Erdem visits and dishes on Vancouver’s style and his capsule collection for The Room at The Bay


How do you get an eminent fashion designer awarded Most Influential Womenswear Designer at the 2011 Global Fashion Awards to visit Vancouver and have a chat? It helps if he’s Canadian. It also helps if he’s designed an exclusive capsule collection for The Room, the sleek new boutique at The Bay.


I sat down with Erdem Moralioglu—known by his first name alone—to talk about his design inspiration. I also wanted to probe his thoughts on Vancouver style, since this city was so recently panned as the third-worst dressed city in the world by MSN Travel.


I knew this Canadian-born, London-based fashion visionary would have some quality insight. After all, his graceful yet modern clothing has won plaudits for its combination of sharp tailoring with romanticism and bold, graphic, custom-designed silk prints.


Erdem appeals to all women, from the prime minister’s wife to celebs like Keira and Gwyneth.


Erdem adjusted his chic librarian specs, took a sip of Diet Coke and dove in. Here’s what he had to say:


Erdem for The Room

Erdem for The Room at The Bay.


GV: You grew up in Montreal and attended Ryerson, but you’ve lived in London for the last 10 years. Do you think of yourself as Canadian?
Erdem: I definitely feel Canadian. I was brought up in Montreal.


GV: Tell me your thoughts on Vancouver fashion. Are we hopeless? We must not be because here you are at The Bay.
Erdem: Vancouver fashion is amazing. It’s amazing to be in this iconic Canadian store. The Bay has put together a really strong mix of labels. I’ve got young Londoners hanging on either side of me in The Room. Christopher Kane’s collection is on the left and Mary Katrantzou is on my right.


GV: What inspires your designs?
Erdem: It can be anything. For this particular collection (Fall/Winter 2011 is hanging on the wall behind us) I was really inspired by the movie Pollock and the idea of a 1950s woman wearing her husband’s canvasses with the ink splotches, the accident of it all.


Spring/Summer 2012 was inspired by the novel Bonjour Tristesse. It’s about this stepdaughter who lives in the south of France and her relationship with her stepmom. I’d say the era is late 1960s.


I loved the idea of her taking her stepmom’s fancy dresses and getting on the back of a moped and driving to the beach with her boyfriend for sundown, wearing lace gloves. I always think that each collection informs the next in that you try to undo it, you try to undo what you’ve previously done: you try to contradict.


Jessica Stam, Erdem and The Bay

Jessica Stam Erdem

Jessica Stam in Erdem for The Bay.


Enter Jessica Stam, the Canadian supermodel who donned Erdem’s capsule collection for the Bay catalogue. She greets the designer warmly, and then begins to look for something to wear in his capsule collection available in The Room. She holds up a dress.


GV: Tell me about how you come up with your custom prints, like the one you chose for the capsule collection that you designed for The Room at The Bay.
Erdem: The dress Jessica is holding now (bursts of fuchsia, canary and cobalt are all tangled together) is a 1950s wallpaper print. Anything looks pretty on Jessica. The print we used for the capsule collection is a bright, multi-coloured, jungle orchid print.


GV: You design dresses that are available in a Size 16. Not many designers do that.
Erdem: Yeah we do. It was really out of demand from our customers. We also do a Size 2 and Size 0. I think people affiliate the larger sizes with girth but that’s as much to do with height and being six foot or whatever. We sell as many smaller sizes as we do larger sizes. It doesn’t matter.


GV: This leads me to wonder how you conceptualize who’s wearing your stuff.
Erdem: Well, that’s a really good question. It’s more about really creating a dress and also understanding how to grade it up to a certain size so it proportionally works. I was going to say that certain styles wouldn’t work when you grade up, but actually, that’s not true. If it’s grown properly, it will.


GV: What was the first dress you designed?
Erdem: Oh gosh, it was a strapless, pale blue dress probably in polyester for my sister’s Barbie. Because it was a circle skirt, all I had to do was to sew around the edge. I was five.


GV: Does your sister wear your designs now?
Erdem: She does. Sara wears them all the time. She’s a lucky sister.


I think I’m lucky to roll out the Vancouver welcome wagon for this visiting style celeb.


Erdem’s nine-piece capsule collection of dresses, skirts, blouses and scarves is available exclusively in The Room at The Bay. Erdem was one of the first designers approached by The Bay when creating the list of partners for The Room, Vancouver.