“It’s a love letter to dance, an art for which I have the greatest respect,” he declares Erdem Moralıoğlu, 43, about her Fall Winter 2021 collection and the accompanying video, which will be unveiled during the London Fashion Week. Although the designer of Turkish-English origin (but born in Canada) is not new to the world of ballet, this is the first time that ballet has been elected as the true and only protagonist of the collection.
In 2017, Erdem was commissioned by the choreographer Christopher Wheeldon to create the stage costumes for her ballet in one act, Corybantic Games, staged at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden (London) with the Royal Ballet troupe in 2018. But – returning to 2021 – it is not surprising that the designer has decided to venture back into the dance planet by collaborating, this time, with Edward Watson, principal dancer and coach of the Royal Ballet. “It was an authentic work on the movements,” says Erdem. “It was not dance in the generic sense of the term”.
Erdem fall winter 2021
© Jason Lloyd Evans
And the clothes? They are the overlap of two worlds: casual mixed with formal to immortalize the moment when the dancers are dressed half in stage costumes and, for the other, with the garments typically used during rehearsals. A few examples? Clothes à plis Watteau, put duchess satin evening gown with precious details, formal overcoats with knitted hair bands, ribbed leggings and platform ballet shoes. Erdem, who has dressed famous women of the caliber of Michelle Obama is Kate Middleton, he wanted to pay homage to a ballerina’s career arc, as well as her obsession with legendary dance names like Margot Fonteyn is Rudolf Nureyev.
After spending the day admiring – in person – Erdem’s genius on the set of his pre-recorded show (which you can see on February 23 on Erdem’s official website), the team of Vogue chatted with the stylist to talk about his undeniable love for dance, why working closely with Edward Watson was essential in order to realize his vision, why, currently, his namesake brand offers more wide variety of sizes and – not least – the importance of body inclusivity in today’s society.
What made you want to focus on dance in this collection?
“The seed had already been sown in 2017 when I started working on Corybantic Games. Even then I knew that I would create a collection dedicated to that period I spent at the Royal Opera House ”.
Why did you choose two legendary names in dance like Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev as your inspirational muses this season?
“I find Fonteyn’s ambition and determination very interesting and his life extremely fascinating. The time when she was prima ballerina. The greatest prima ballerina in the world. Then the period in which her fame seems to fade, until the meeting with 23-year old Nureyev – when she was 42 – relaunches her career, bringing her back into the limelight. They are both figures of great inspiration to me ”.
Is there a particular music or sound that inspired the collection?
“Of course! I watched hours of footage of Nureyev and Fonteyn in rehearsal and, in most cases, these are classical ballets. But I must say that The Swan Lake it is what has remained most impressed in my heart. There are several references to the Swan Lake in the collection “.
How did the collaboration with Edward Watson start?
“I met Edward years ago through Lauren Cuthbertson, principal dancer of the Royal Ballet of London, who is a dear friend of mine. Edward is the most famous dancer in Britain and the idea of working on this collection with him made perfect sense. So I asked him to join the team as movement director. He has an eye and a great sensitivity; it is simply splendid. There are images in which, from the way he places his foot, it seems to review the spirit of Nureyev.
Erdem fall winter 2021
© Jason Lloyd Evans
“The work on the movements is inspired by the idea of the dancers as they enter or leave the stage and get into position. It was not so much a question of making the dancers dance as much as studying the moment when the curtain closes and the various members of the troupe cross each other on the stage returning from their respective roles ”.
Did you always have a clear view of the type of movie you wanted to make? What can you tell us about the musical choices?
“We talked a lot, with the team, about Hitchcockian atmospheres, so I hope that the feeling you get from watching it is that suspense that in the cinema portends something nefarious. The focus is less on action and more on anticipation. We felt that the effect was even more distressing combined with a melodic and repetitive music, as if we were in a dance studio with the pianist in the corner ”.
The cast of the show includes four dancers, including two who have retired from dance and stage. What prompted you to make this choice and why was it important to include them?
“All four of the dancers – Marguerite Porter, Christina Arestis, Elizabeth McGorian and Zenaida Yanowsky – have different qualities that I find very fascinating. Furthermore, they are all related to Nureyev. Since I have a real obsession for him, I was interested in meeting anyone who had known him ”.
Erdem garments are now available in sizes ranging from 38 to 54. How come the body inclusivity is that important to you and your brand?
“I make many creations bespoke and I realized that there is a great demand for garments of different sizes and silhouettes. Dressing a variety of different women is democratic and wonderful. It is for this reason that I believe it is important to represent that variety also within the show itself ”.
What do you miss from physical shows and what do you wish for their future?
“I miss the background noise of the audience taking their seats in the room and the sense of anticipation that one feels a few minutes from the start. Whether welcomed or not, seeing the six-month work materialize in front of a real audience of people has a whole different flavor. A live show has something intangible that is hard to put into words. I hope we will return to the shows! “
Last question: your collection is inspired by dance. What stimulates in you the desire to dance?
“To witness that wonderful moment in which the dancers are completely lost in their physicality. It becomes a phenomenal, dare I say transcendental experience. That feeling where you are completely elsewhere with the mind. It is the most beautiful emotion in the world ”.