Erdem’s feminine designs highlight the changing style of Washington

April 2

It is unusual for a designer garment to make its debut in Washington rather than a fashion capital like New York or Paris. Guests at the fourth annual Great Ladies Luncheon, co-hosted by Saks, were privy to such a rare occurrence on Tuesday. British designer Erdem Moralioglu presented twelve of his creations on an elevated runway in the downstairs ballroom of the Ritz Carlton, including several pieces not previously shown at London Fashion Week or his pre-fall presentation.

Most notable of the new looks: a shimmering, full-length black gown that closed the show.

“It is a really special dress,” Moralioglu said the next morning at Saks in Chevy Chase. “It was nice to show it for the first time in Washington.”


Photo by Tony Powell

It’s a look that wouldn’t be out of place at galas this spring in Washington.

Moralioglu is known for a feminine aesthetic and floral prints designed on his Mac. His line’s success in the Washington market is a reflection of the shifting tastes of female residents, who have grown to favor the pastels and silks seen on the fictional Olivia Pope of ABC’s “Scandal” rather than the stereotypically conservative look favored by female politicos. Long gone are the power suits of the ’80s and ’90s that women felt were necessary in order to be taken seriously. Today, Erdem’s textured sheath with mesh cut-outs along the shoulders would be ideal for a business lunch when paired with a blazer and sleek pumps. The same holds true for the slim black lace piece from his 2014 pre-fall collection.

“People are sometimes afraid of [being] feminine,” Moralioglu says. “I think there is something so empowering about it.”

It is a sentiment that has spread from Michelle Obama to Saks’ high-powered clientele. And to younger women who feel more confident in soft and sheer fabrics than boxy slacks. That’s not to say ruffle details and billowy blouses should stand alone. Moralioglu, like many chic women he dresses, is a fan of blending looks. Wear something very feminine, but mix it with “your husband’s cashmere jumper,” he advises. “Don’t be afraid.”

Erdem’s international appeal also highlights the evolution of style in the nation’s capital. The London-based line fits in Washington — where American sportswear used to dominate — as well as it does in other capitals, which is what Moralioglu intended.

“When I design the collection, I’m always designing for the same girl. Firstly, she exists in my sketchbooks. I draw her and I try to figure out what is going to happen to her, every collection is like a chapter in a book,” he says. “She is 18 and lives in Singapore, she’s 35 and lives in Washington, she’s in Istanbul, she’s in Paris… it’s a real privilege to dress so many different women.”

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