The fashion circus stops for no one. Even a leading designer of his generation whose romantic creations this past decade have been worn by everyone from The Crown’s Claire Foy to Michelle Obama and Madonna. But for Erdem Moralioglu, his honeymoon this fall had to squeeze into a two-day gap in between fittings and finishing off his Spring collection.
“I got married on August 31st and I had my show a couple of weeks later so we booked 48 hours at Le Bristol in Paris, spending most of the time sleeping in, having breakfast in bed, and walking around the Tuileries and along The Seine. But my highlight was this kind of photo transfer of our faces in chocolate powder on top of the cappuccinos in the morning.”
The affable Canadian-born designer (with a British mother and Turkish father) has called London home for the last 20 years since he joined the Royal College, alma mater of such greats as Ossie Clark and Celia Birtwell. A designer’s designer, he is delightfully ego-free, with the self-possession to charm the haughtiest of fashion dragons and a stolid champion of his fellow (formerly) Young British Designers who rose up together in the noughties. But it’s his own collections that do the talking: known for their extravagant silhouettes, embroidered silks, they are a bankable highlight of London Fashion Week. Recent references have included everything from silent movie stars from early Hollywood to Victorian London’s secret club of cross-dressers.
Even when he is on the road, meeting buyers, clients and stars in Paris and New York, Erdem cites books as his biggest luxury. “Everywhere I go, I tend to buy books. I have a big library in the studio, one at home and I keep a lot in storage. There’s an amazing bookshop in Le Marais called Comptoir de l’Image, I love Les Mots à la Bouche, which is a wonderful little gay bookstore. I love Dashwood Books in New York, with amazing editions and first editions.”
When it comes to travel he is a creature of habit, Mexico City and the Greek island of Patmos are two destinations he will revisit in 2020 with his favorite companion, his architect husband Philip who designed his store on London’s Mount Street. “When I go away, I try to forget about work but I suppose inspiration has a way of finding you. Generally, I always go away with a clear head and just with the intention of just relaxing…I always have my eyes very open. I find it impossible to close them particularly when I’m somewhere new. We’re all visual people, and I’m always looking.”
What item can you not travel without? My husband. He’s an ideal travel companion and very relaxed but also very curious, which I think is the best way to travel. I’m a bit more of the planner. Philip’s more of a passenger.
Who would you most like to be sat next to on a long-haul flight? Kristin Scott Thomas. She’s hilarious and a great partner in crime. She was my date to the Met Gala a few years ago, and we’ve remained great friends.
When were you happiest while travelling? Every year we go to Patmos with the same group. We go in July before the August madness. A few friends have houses so we go from house to house, lots of dinner parties and floating around on boats, going to different islands for lunch and just taking it very easy. It’s a beautiful place to get lost whether you’re on a boat or walking around a monastery. There is a magic to it.
Which language do you wish you spoke? Japanese. I love Japan. There’s obviously this extraordinary sense of tradition and by understanding the language, you’d be able to immerse yourself in it even more.
If you could live in any hotel which would it be? Benesse House, which is the hotel in Naoshima designed by Tadao Ando. You’re sleeping in a gallery on the edge of sea, there’s amazing artwork and architecture and nature all around, and a wonderful place to watch the sunrise. There is this oval room at the top of the hotel that you have to take a robotic funicular to get to.
What is your room service indulgence? I highly recommend a hamburger in bed with a glass of champagne. Preferably at Claridge’s.
What’s the strangest place you’ve spent the night? A ryokan in Kyoto called the Three Sisters Inn, run by three sisters. I remember we had to make it back by either 9pm or 10pm or else we were going to be locked out and on the streets. We were shocked we had a curfew but it was very special.
What is your favourite market? It would be Vanves flea market in Paris in the 14 arrondissement. I’ll pick up paintings and amazing books. It’s a bit rough around the edges compared to Clignancourt.
What are your packing tips? Pack light. I generally bring an empty suitcase or buy an extra suitcase while I’m traveling.
If you could travel to any place in any epoch which would it be? Oscar Wildean London would be extraordinary to witness: a time of great contradictions. Everything was incredibly conservative but I think there was also so much that was hidden. Or, the Royal College with David Hockney, Ossie Clark, and Celia Birtwell in the swinging 60s with Kings Road and all of that.
What is your favourite hotel bar? Dukes for a dirty martini. Only two. Three is too much and you start to forget things.
In which places would you happily spend a weekend, a week, a month, a year? A weekend in Berlin. I would visit the museums on Museum Island. Berlin is also just a great place to go out. I love Bar Saint Jean, it’s a great French-owned cocktail bar. A week in the South of France at the Colombe d’Or. I would lie by the pool and read several books I keep meaning to read like The Volcano Lover by Susan Sontag. A month in Vietnam and Cambodia. They are both such culturally rich places I don’t know where to begin but I’d love to do the obvious things; explore the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia and visit the floating markets in Vietnam. A year in Turkey to learn Turkish and discover more about where my family’s from. I would get to know Istanbul a lot better and travel back to Eastern Turkey—a trip I did when I was 18—and just discover the entire country.
What is on your in-flight playlist? Mythos, about the Ancient Greek myths which is written and read by Stephen Fry. He reads it so well. I just finished listening to him narrate Where Angels Fear to Tread by EM Forster.
What do you wear on a flight? I change into a pair of sweatpants, a T-shirt, a cardigan, and Adidas slides which you can kind of just kick on and off.
Travel hell is… I have been stuck on the Eurostar between London and Paris because of a major technical issue for about six hours. It was a late train so by the time we rolled into the Gare Du Nord it was early in the morning.
Where are you ashamed you’ve never been? Edinburgh.
What was your most memorable meal? I had the most delicious lamb stew with cinnamon on a street in Kuwait. It was street food and it was extraordinary.
Which skill would you love to learn? I’d love to have better penmanship, so calligraphy. I think Florence would be a good place to learn –I think that they would be very good at it.
What are your three favourite stores on earth? Sigmar on the King’s Road, London, for mid-century furniture. There’s a shirt store in Rome called Schostal for amazing bespoke shirts and the best socks. Momosan in Hackney, London, for eclectic gifts and homeware and of course, Dover Street Market.
Why do you travel? Often, what needs me to traveling is work. The thing that propels me to travel is curiosity.