The fast-fashion collaboration script is pretty familiar by now: Emerging and/or cult designer gets tapped by international retail behemoth to produce a sort of “greatest hits” collection that distills the runway themes into clothes that can be mass produced and that are accessible to mall shoppers around the globe. And . . . scene. One of the nice things about Erdem Moralioglu’s collaboration with H&M—his first ever and one he held out for—is that it has disrupted that narrative in various ways. For starters, the collection he debuted tonight in Hollywood boasted a great deal of newness. Although the signature Erdem look was indeed distilled here, and there were several pieces recognizable from recent runway collections, what was more notable were the ways that Moralioglu seized the opportunity to work outside his typical process to expand his brand vocabulary.
The headline, as far as that newness was concerned, was that this show marked the debut of Erdem Moralioglu: menswear designer. The looks he showed hewed to the natty—wool and tweed tailoring, a handful of knits, some durable outerwear, and both suiting and pajama-style pieces in floral prints and brocade, all of it evoking the vibe of a shambolic crowd weekending at an English country house. (A reference picked up on by Baz Luhrmann, who did a kind of pop update on Brideshead Revisited for the short film accompanying the collection.) Whether a menswear range is in the offing for his main line, Erdem, remains to be seen, but it will be somewhat surprising if the designer doesn’t apply the experience with tailoring he gained here to his runway womenswear in coming seasons. That was the real breakthrough in this collaboration: Courtesy of H&M, Moralioglu discovered that menswear-inspired tailoring fits seamlessly into his soigné womenswear idiom.
The other way that this collection departed from the usual fast-fashion collaboration script was that it felt slow. Moralioglu isn’t a particularly trendy designer—he’s developed his brand language via patient evolution rather than assertive, experimental seasonal revisions—so it was only natural that his approach would be to create keepsake pieces. You didn’t get the impression that these clothes were designed to be worn once and carelessly discarded, an impression bolstered by the fact that Moralioglu insisted on a level of craftsmanship one doesn’t automatically associate with H&M. The fabrications were quite precious—fine jacquard, guipure, Harris tweed, and so forth. There were concessions to commerce—sweatshirts; an emphasis on more casual looks; and, in the dressier numbers, an uncharacteristic degree of sparkle. But the tone overall was elevated, and by and large the collection served as a preview for what a more fully merchandised version of the Erdem main line might look like. No shock: It looks good. Tasteful, but with just enough edge and eccentricity to fend off claustrophobia. And it was nice to think that a girl coming into H&M to buy one of this collection’s diaphanous floral dresses, or a boy purchasing a suit jacket or overcoat, would be very happy to hang on to those pieces for quite a while. And that they’d stand the test of time.