A new collaboration between Erdem and de Gournay revels in the charms of chinoiserie.
“I think Debo would have had this in Chatsworth,” says Erdem Moralioglu in his Shoreditch studio, as he walks me through his new collaboration with British wallpaper house de Gournay. “I think she would go for the pale duck-egg blue – perhaps with a Lucian Freud overhanging.”
The London-based designer with a penchant for romanticism and a talent for storytelling is now bringing a new narrative to de Gournay with his own hand-painted wallpaper and an accompanying capsule collection of 11 pieces inspired by the wallpaper design. This is a fashion-meets-interiors union as symbiotic as it is exquisite: de Gournay’s reputation for creating what is essentially couture for the home rests largely on its fantastical, hand-painted chinoiserie wallpaper panels, which were the starting point for Moralioglu’s collection.
While chinoiserie was employed by the wealthy (and, often, crowned) heads of Europe during the halcyon years of the 18th and 19th centuries, Moralioglu discovered his love of it closer to home at “a wonderful Notting Hill town house, many moons ago,” where he was enthralled to see a mint-colored de Gournay wrapping around his friend’s majestic living room. “It was such an extraordinary idea – that you cover a room in something entirely made by hand,” he says. “My own work has a very human hand, whether it’s embroidery, print, texture.” (The friend has since relocated, and the precious panels moved from west to south London, revealing another glory of de Gournay: its investment value.)
It’s difficult to imagine a prettier collaboration. Moralioglu’s sensuous spin on chinoiserie is crafted in de Gournay’s mainland China artist studio, a short distance from Shanghai, where each custom panel can be hand-painted over any of de Gournay’s base colors. “I was thinking about my mother, who was English, and my father, who was Turkish; looking at English roses, Turkish roses, and birds originating from England, Turkey, and Canada,” says the designer. Sparrows, warblers, and pheasants swoop and perch on a verdant lattice of branches and hydrangea, set against vibrant marigold, lemon, and a deep Kelly green. The aforementioned “Debo” blue (after Deborah Cavendish, the 11th Duchess of Devonshire) is actually taken from the paint used in the Erdem store in Mayfair (which was developed by architect Philip Joseph). “His color choices are extraordinarily vibrant,” says de Gournay scion and director of business development Hannah Cecil Gurney, who first approached Moralioglu about the collaboration two years ago. “He wasn’t held back by traditions or architecture – his vision is beauty for beauty’s sake.” The exercise also allowed Moralioglu to rediscover his own archive. The lovebirds fluttering from the panels are from his runway debut, and the Le Moyne-inspired botanicals from a long-ago pre-fall collection. (He has also incorporated what he calls “little secrets,” including the birds that adorned his wedding-breakfast linens.)
The clothes themselves carry delicately rescaled iterations of the wallpaper print, with their painterly nuance rendered across three neutral backgrounds of black, white, and French navy. “I was thinking about dresses that had a real lightness to them,” Moralioglu says, pulling at a tiered silk-georgette gown with a Watteau back. The collection includes nine dresses – ranging from impressive gowns to a cheery cotton poplin shirtwaist style and a silk handkerchief-hem sundress – and the designer’s stately fabulosity is everywhere on display in the details, from pussy-cat bows and Victoriana collars to swooshy bishop sleeves. A short, diaphanous cape dress is adorned with the same enchanting design, while the fluttery voile top and crepe de chine bias-cut skirt will land nicely at any summer garden party as an elegant alternative to a dress.
Moralioglu’s research for the collaboration even took him to the grandest of addresses: Buckingham Palace. On a walking tour with Caroline de Guitaut, deputy surveyor of the queen’s works of art at Royal Collection Trust, he saw “the chinoiserie room that leads onto the balcony where they wave, which is just beautiful – it’s wonderful when you see people living with chinoiserie and absorbing it,” he says. (Another inspiration: the elegant gusto of Pierre Bergé and Yves Saint Laurent’s Paris apartment, images of which are pinned to his mood board.) The designer, who is completing the renovation of his own Georgian town house, envisages the Kelly green in the upper guest room, further dressed (or disrupted) with a pale Kaye Donachie painting and a Cecil Beaton illustration – both of which are currently propped up on his studio floor.
Originally published in the May 2020 issue of Vogue Arabia