It’s hard for Erdem Moralioglu to resist a historical drama, with strong, and often misunderstood, figures from the past informing his collections. Cecil Beaton and his sisters, Princess Doria Pamphilj, Adele Astaire and the young Queen Elizabeth II have all served as Moralioglu’s muses.

Spring was all about Emma Hamilton, the famous lover of Lord Nelson. Moralioglu had devoured Susan Sontag’s 1992 novel “The Volcano Lover,” set in the royal court of 18th-century Naples, and couldn’t get the tragic Emma, her love triangle, or the constant smoking threat of Mount Vesuvius out of his head.

The designer took to Epping Forest in Essex, England (London designers seem to have a thing for forests this season, one that’s turning out to be an ode to Nature) to film his ladies dashing through tree-lined passageways, dressed in Empire waist gowns adorned with military-style ribbons; embroidered, hammered silk or organza dresses, and long, breezy cotton ones with big, and rounded, lantern-like sleeves.

He used denim for the first time, too, working it into skirts and jeans printed with delicate wildflowers. The same flower print blossomed across short dresses with lace seams, pleated midi-skirts and demure gowns with gathered cuffs.

Erdem toned down the formality of it all — tossing big V-neck cardigans (or a standout silk jacquard anorak in military green) over those breezy dresses — and worked with a far lighter touch than in past seasons, when his collections could sometimes skew costume-y.

He said he didn’t want it to feel polished at all. “It’s a little sloppy, there’s an un-doneness to it, a sense of unwinding that felt relevant to me,” said the designer, who couldn’t help but compare Emma’s dilemmas, and the puffing Vesuvius, to the current times.

WATCH: Inside Erdem’s Spring 2021 Collection

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