LONDON, United Kingdom — Erdem Moralıoğlu’s romantic embellishments and vibrant, jewel-toned prints have won support from a wide spectrum of high-profile women — from film stars and royalty to gallerists and internet executives — for their celebration of female strength, independence and femininity. This year, the company projects a turnover of more than £10 million (about $15.7 million).
Now, 10 years after he debuted his first collection, Moralıoğlu has opened his first store on South Audley Street, in the heart of London’s Mayfair.
“It was definitely something that I planned and something that I knew that I wanted to do. It was a question of figuring out timing,” says Moralıoğlu in an exclusive video interview with BoF’s Imran Amed. The designer spent two years looking for a site and last week, the 1,570-square-foot, two-storey retail space opened its doors.
Designed by P Joseph, an architecture and design firm set up by twin brothers Peter and Philip Joseph (Philip is Moralıoğlu’s long time partner, who he met during his time at London’s Royal College of Art), Moralıoğlu has approached the store with the same attention to detail he applies to each of his collections. Everything has been carefully thought through to make sure it captures the spirit of the Erdem woman.
“[Philip]’s seen every single show, he’s been a part of every single show,” says Moralıoğlu. “Who better to design the actual space than someone who’s actually seen every single collection?”
Its marble flooring and sweeping staircase came from a closed-down quarry in Belgium, brought over and installed by a friend from Antwerp. “So much of it had to do with kind of amazing collaborations and people that really believed in what we were doing,” Moralıoğlu says.
For Moralıoğlu, a fascination with better understanding his customer has always been central to his work and this store has been designed with the Erdem woman in mind. From a young age, he was entranced with femininity. His vision of it as synonymous with intelligence and strength is part of what has helped the designer grow a vast and varied customer base, from red carpet starlets like Keira Knightly to the Duchess of Cambridge and Marissa Mayer, chief executive of Yahoo.
But his 10 years in the industry have only shown Moralıoğlu how diverse the Erdem woman is. Today, Erdem brand is stocked in over 170 retailers and boutiques worldwide, including Bergdorf Goodman, Saks Fifth Avenue and Selfridges, and Moralıoğlu has been travelling to meet his clients since the beginning. But, “The more I meet her, the more varied I realise that she is,” he explains. “She’s 18, she’s also 65. She’s a mother or she’s a gallerist. She’s a doctor, she’s French, she lives in Japan, she’s Turkish, she lives in LA. She’s so many different women.”
With the store, Moralıoğlu wanted to create “her Mayfair pied-à-terre,” describing the level of detail with which he approached the process of figuring out what she would want from a store as “almost forensic.” “What would she sit on, what would the store smell like, what would she look at?” “It’s something almost kind of reflective of how she would live,” he adds.
Opening a retail space is an important milestone in the career of any fashion designer — and a step that the half-English, half-Turkish, Canadian-born Moralıoğlu has always wanted to take. But if there’s one lesson Moralıoğlu has learned from his decade in the fashion industry, it is the importance of patience.
“I started 10 years ago, so that was 10 years of learning and learning what works and what doesn’t and evolving,” says Moralıoğlu. “I think it’s been about incremental growth and growing in a very controlled way,” he continued. “Understanding that growing at a slower pace is good — not to get too big too quickly.”
Significantly, the store has been built without the help of any investors — financed by profits generated by the business — and the company remains completely independent. “We waited a long time until we felt like we could actually afford to do it properly. I think we could have done it perhaps earlier, but it wouldn’t have been the store that we are sitting in now,” Moralıoğlu points out.
Could this be the first step in a retail empire? The company says they will be cautious, but they hope to open another store in the US in the next three years.
Watch the full interview with Erdem Moralıoğlu above.