Between the baseball cap, hoodie, and bomber jacket that found their way into Erdem Moralioglu’s second menswear collection, you’d be tempted to call it streetwear. “Utilitarian romanticism,” the designer replied resolutely on a video call. He has a point: in world where people wear couture-house joggers to dinner, and even Moralioglu—who I suspect still has his newspaper ironed in the morning—surrenders to sporty dress codes, streetwear is really just daywear. “It’s a boiled fleece hoodie with a tailored, nipped jogger,” he said of the collection’s most informal look, describing those garments exactly like he would his ladylike womenswear.
But unlike that womenswear—a longstanding and big business—Moralioglu’s men’s world has a relaxed, almost light-hearted quality about it. With the line still in its infancy, these clothes are borne out of a curiosity and interest, and feel like a project he’s having fun with. The designer has been living in the spring men’s collection since he received the first pieces, and, as he confirmed, “it’s very personal.” While the first collection only started to arrive in stores in November, his recipe of ravishingly-colored knits, corduroy, and printed denim has seen great response from the yet-to-be-defined Erdem men’s customer, and has gone down well with his trusty female clientele, too.
This season, he took inspiration from the work of two women, who may as well have played muses to one of his women’s collections: Madame d’Ora, a Viennese portrait photographer and contemporary of Picasso, and Madame Yevonde, a portrait and still-life photographer—and master colorist—who worked in London around the interwar era. Together, their subjects, grading techniques, and the latter’s use of color inspired a 1930s-driven collection, which borrowed from the women’s wardrobe of the time, and fused those references in Moralioglu’s contemporary “utilitarian romanticism.”
A boucle tweed suit, also interpreted as a coat, exemplified that fusion, generating a kind of ladies-who-lunch look for men, which reflected a play on gender codes that interests Moralioglu. As he quipped, referring to the Erdem man, “He likes to eat lunch, too.” Other such ideas included a fisherman’s jumper twin set in merino mohair waffle knit, a cotton drill suit in rust embroidered head-to-toe with brown and blue roses, and a dandy-esque nipped-in 1930s suit with a wide, high lapel, which was almost jaunty. “Life’s short,” the designer said. “Pull yourself together.”
What emerged through Moralioglu’s second menswear proposal was a men’s universe of conventional contradictions: feminine vs. masculine, formal vs. informal, old world vs. new world. Those dichotomies are hardly new territory in menswear, but through the lens of Erdem—with all its history and romanticism—this menswear brand already feels unique and familiar in a way that gives it a character of its own on a very saturated market. His “utilitarian romanticism” is here to stay.