Erdem Moraliouglu’s seasonal history lesson dealt with the unusual life of Princess Donna Orietta Doria-Pamphilj-Landi. An Italian princess who lived in the vast Palazzo Doria Pamphilj in Rome, her list of titles has its own chapter on Wikipedia and her story is as Erdem as they come: the last in a dynastic line that originated in the 13th century, her family opposed Mussolini and the blonde princess had to dye her hair blonde and go into hiding. Before she left Rome for London, she tore the paintings off the walls of her palazzo and wore them as kilts, and sewed her jewels into her clothes. You could imagine the perpetually Stendhal Syndrome’d Erdem getting heart palpitations visiting the palazzo – now a museum – last year.
“I became obsessed with her; with the weight of her carrying this heritage,” he said of the princess, who was unable to conceive. “Everyone thought she was going to become a nun because she couldn’t continue the line, but then she went to London in the sixties and adopted a boy and a girl – in her mid-late forties.” Ever the historical detective, the designer had met with the princess’s son, whose passed-down tales framed the collection’s narrative. “Her leaving Rome and coming to London: the contrast between the aristocracy and the social changes happening in the sixties,” Erdem reflected. “You went from these nipped, controlled silhouettes below the knee to things that became shorter and covered in feathers.”
This was a typical Erdemism: the transformation from one page of a history book to another, two contrasting narratives meeting in silhouette, and all the fictional fluff he dreams up around those factual events in that swooning beauty-addict mind of his. That also paved the way for familiar turf for him. If the “Italian sixties couture” elements, as he called them, formed a well-known foundation for his collection – full skirts, pearl embellishment, gowns in polite volumes, sleeve porn – were the components from London’s fashion scene in the ’60s meant to break up the prim-and-properness of the collection? Lurex brocades, marked bra lines, and knitted skirt twin sets weren’t a shock to the system, but then Erdem sometimes just wants to live out his majestic fantasies. And that’s okay.
The most interesting part of his collection were the paintings transferred onto cocktail dresses that were then wildly embellished with pearls. Highly graphic and quite literal for Erdem’s normally more subtle way of referencing, the motifs provided a refreshing and quite decadent new element to his repertoire. Speaking of decadence, some wondered why Erdem, in a season so far epitomised by huge haute couture volumes and castles in the sky, didn’t exercise his most dramatic silhouette muscle. Perhaps the business-savvy side to this designer’s romantic mind prevailed. And that’s okay, too.