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Top 10 looks from Erdem's H&M collaboration

Montreal designer expected to generate a sellout frenzy when his styles hit stores and online on Nov. 2.

The Erdem x H&M collection includes men’s Scandinavian style sweaters ($149).

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The Erdem x H&M collection includes men’s Scandinavian style sweaters ($149).

There is a Canadian connection to the newest buzzy H&M designer collaboration.

On Nov. 2, at select stores and online, Erdem x H&M will launch with a collection of 30 to 35 women’s styles and 10 to 15 accessories, and around 20 men’s styles and 10 accessories, a first for the label. The limited-edition event is expected to generate the same sellout frenzy of previous years’ collaborations from the likes of Alexander Wang, Balenciaga, Marni, Versace and Commes des Garcons, among others.

Erdem Moralioglu was born in Montreal in 1976 to a Turkish father and a British mother. His eponymous label is known for his exotic and intricate prints and fabrics cut with a romantic flow. His work has been embraced memorably by celebrity fans from Kate Middleton and Meghan Markle, to Michelle Obama, Keira Knightley, Claire Foy, Jessica Chastain and Nicole Kidman.

Early on Moralioglu developed his signature look, honing his craft at Ryerson University, where he earned a BA in design. He carried on to London to become the star of the Royal College of Art graduate class of 2003, followed by internships at print-master Diane von Furstenberg in New York, then romanticist rebel Vivienne Westwood back in London, before launching his own line in 2005.

Known for the elaborate backstories he invents for his collections, Moralioglu is ever playful about the H&M inspiration: “Inspired by the Pet Shop Boys music video Being Boring, I imagined a group of young friends invading an English country house for the weekend, and that idea of wearing a ball gown with a pair of trainers, or a guy in silk pyjamas with a tweed jacket that he found on the back of a door.”

He says designing this collaboration collection was a chance to look back through his work and themes over the years, such as the sunray plisse dress that was in his first-ever collection, or Victorian buttonholes from a collection three years ago. He adds, “I also looked at my own personal memories, my childhood and my family, and things that inspire me in pop culture.” Even though prices will range from $29.99 to $299, he says “Everything is exquisitely detailed and beautifully finished, without any compromises.”

Retail guru and consultant Nicholas Mellamphy first brought Erdem back to Canada at his former boutique Hazel, circa 2008. The collection followed Mellamphy when he helmed The Room at Hudson’s Bay where it became a firm favourite with the country’s socialite and celebrity set.

Mellamphy says Moralioglu’s work first caught his eye while the designer was still at Ryerson, but that he was blown away to see what his early collections had evolved into when they were reintroduced in London. “His work stood out for its originality, unusual colour combinations and unexpected prints, things like insects, not your expected florals. And it is a different idea of beauty, flowing and feminine and I don’t dare say pretty, but rather so flattering. It is a throwback to a more elegant way of dressing, the way the fabric flows on a woman’s body.”

Moralioiglu joined his peers from London’s other major design hub, Central Saint Martins — Mary Katrantzou, Christopher Kane, Giles Deacon, Roksanda Ilincic — as part of London’s rock star new wave of young design talent, breaking onto the scene. This fashion pack is now entering a magic point for designers, the 10-year mark. That he had to go to Britain to “make it” is not lost on Canadian fashion insiders such as Mellamphy, who notes that this group was the beneficiary of new British government investment in the fashion design sector, a critical kind of support for fashion as an art and cultural form that is not found in Canada at any level of government.

“The other thing about Erdem is that it looks good on so many different types of women,” Mellamphy adds. But only celebrities and socialites could afford the dresses, which run to the thousands of dollars. “There was pop culture awareness of the brand from its celebrity fans. But the H&M project will take his career to the next level.”

H&M design director Ann-Sofie Johansson calls Moralioglu's work “fragile and strong at the same time.” She says she loves how his collections time-travel through different eras, but emerge with an always contemporary edge. She also thinks Erdem might be just the tonic we need right now: “For me, this collaboration is about pure beauty. It’s like beautification for the troubled world that we live in. I think that right now, our eyes need to see something that is beautiful, charming and delicate.”

And for us Canadians, we may just find bits of ourselves reflected in the work. Moralioglu says the H&M collection riffs on the stuff he and his family used to wear back in Canada, from his twin sister Sara’s vintage tea dresses worn with a fleece overtop, to an old Norwegian sweater he wore in high school.

“Then I remembered how my mother would put our father’s tweed blazer over her shoulders when she would drive us to school, or the structured handbags she carries in photos of her from the ’60s.”

The best designers are indeed mockingbirds, picking up threads of memories and weaving them into something entirely new and challenging, yet at the same time somehow hauntingly familiar.

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