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Mar 21 2012

In Conversation: Colin McDowell Chats With Erdem

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Last night I was honoured to attend the last leg of the hugely successful Fashion Fringe road show, where the lovely Colin McDowell chatted with his former student Erdem Moralioğlu at the Royal College of Arts in front of around 200 people. The roadshow has been geared at students and prospective Fashion Fringe entrants, so I was fortunate that the lovely Fashion Fringe team didn’t mind a blogger crashing the lecture theatre as I found the hour-long talk truly inspiring and entertaining, the banter between Colin and Erdem was really charming.

Erdem was lovely and relaxed chatting about his twin sister, who he “respects and admires”, his first flutters into fashion in Canada, the prospect of active service in Turkey as his father is Turkish, the exciting news that he has just bought a house with his partner of nine years who he met while at the Royal College of Arts, how he deals with press, as well as giving an insight into the workings of his fashion label and his career so far. It really did seem that there was no subject off limit.

I have followed Erdem’s career for a number of years, like most women I am consumed with how gorgeous and elegant his designs are, they truly are divine, each gown just has femininity and gracefulness that I don’t think is rivalled by anyone else. It has been a little from the distance until last night, I haven’t been to one of Erdem’s shows, I haven’t seen his designs at a press day, and sadly I have no gorgeous floral prints in my wardrobe, but hearing his lovely story gives me hope that one day all those things will happen.

If you, like me was hoping that one day there would be a H&M, Debenhams or another high street collaboration in the works – think again. “It’s never been the right moment,” said Erdem. “If it works for some people, then that’s wonderful – but it depends on where you’re at. For me, it’s really important to concentrate on your collection and your own work. Once you start looking at versions of your work, it can get a bit dangerous. One can do it really well and in an interesting way though.”

For budding fashion designer’s Erdem’s is a little unconventional, he actually only did one internship, which lasted three months at Vivienne Westwood, which he said “was wonderful” as he was left in the archives with all the lovely corsets. But he did add that the experience did give him “direction”. From the RCA Erdem relocated to New York to be a “design assistant, assistant, assistant to Diana von Furstenberg”, a paid gig that he only did for a year, “I adored New York, but I had no intentions on staying. But it was there that I realised that I had to start my own label.”

It was shortly after coming back to London that he entered Fashion Fringe, which he eventually went onto win, and it was sweet hearing how proud he was of the collection. He also recounted his favourite show the year after winning FF, “The show was at the V&A it was crazy as the catwalk started in the gift shop, and hair and make-up was by the Chinese vases. But I was standing on my own two feet for the first time.”

Since then success hasn’t been handed to him, it took American retailer Barneys to take notice and buy up his collection that really made UK stockists come on board, and now his line is sold around the world in every notable high-end department store from Harrods to Liberty’s. But he did add that “it was hard for the first couple of seasons”, noting that people just remember that Michelle Obama wore his skirt five years ago!!!

As well as discussing his fashion inspirations, his background, and his love of the RCA, he also gave insight into his business. The most amazing revelation was that the majority of the manufacturing is done right here in Britain and how he totally recommends it. I know that is a little geeky of me but I do love hearing that designers like to keep things local.

Everything from the evening has made me want to know more about Erdem – such a great idea from Fashion Fringe to hold these intimate events that I hope that they do a lot more.

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**Thanks to Fashion Fringe for inviting me, and I am so sorry for the poor pics – I was so consumed with the conversation I kind of forgot to take any pictures except these on my Blackberry**
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