The designers who play to operatic volumes and embellishment are having the time of their lives at the moment. Erdem Moralioglu has been a lead voice in that choir from his beginnings as a designer—as a matter of fact, he was more of a soloist in London at that time.
Now the unbound extravaganza of fabulousness which Pierpaolo Piccioli has brought to Valentino since he took over the reins has created an atmosphere in which young designers—like Moralioglu—are going full throttle. And so, by pure coincidence, to Italy, where Erdem Moralioglu happened to fall in love with the complicated life story of Principessa Orietta Doria Pamphilj (1920–2000), who turned into his Fall heroine. He became totally absorbed in her story—her early life was broken apart when her father was arrested for resisting Mussolini’s Fascism—when he was introduced to her son, Jonathan. Visiting the 1,000-room palazzo she lived in as the sole inheritor of vast dynastic wealth, the designer became obsessed “with how we deal with what happened in the past, and how we move forward with it.”
There were richly romantic results, as Moralioglu began to imagine the principessa’s visit to London in 1963—a clash of aristocratic grandeur and the early youthquake of the Swinging Sixties. He took inspiration from the furnishings, paintings and wallpaper of the family palazzo for his extravagant brocades and florals, mixed with a note of Catholic mourning and the tales he heard of Pamphilj’s troubles during the war.
There were bubble dresses and bows galore, sweeping trains and gleaming ostrich-feathered embroideries. Where were the English ’60s? Maybe in the hints of Mary Quant’s early use of groovy lace tights, tweeds, and kinky leather boots. The innocent, virginal fashion for upstanding frilly collars had a lovely moment in a white chiffon tiered dress with a row of black velvet ribbons. Moralioglu scripted in the story of how the principessa wore her jewels on the inside of her jackets at one point, and the fact that she ordered a wedding dress patterned in black roses, out of respect for her deceased father.
Richness, gorgeousness, formality and a touch of darkness—it was an Erdem character-led fantasy at its best.