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EXCLUSIVE: Duchess of Devonshire’s Style, Chatsworth Inspire New Show of Erdem’s Designs

“Imaginary Conversations” will showcase styles from Erdem’s spring 2024 collection alongside vintage textiles from Chatsworth and fashion, jewels and ephemera belonging to the late dowager Duchess Deborah Devonshire.

EXCLUSIVE: Duchess of Devonshire’s Style, Chatsworth Inspire New Show of Erdem’s Designs

Deborah Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, was the inspiration for Erdem’s spring 2024 show.

LONDON — Erdem Moralioglu is returning in style to Chatsworth with an exhibition inspired by the interiors, fabrics and fashion archive of one of England’s grandest stately homes and its famous former inhabitant, the late dowager Duchess Deborah Devonshire.

The designer, who drew inspiration from Chatsworth and the duchess for his spring 2024 collection, has helped to organize “Imaginary Conversations,” which runs from June 21 through Oct. 20.

The exhibition, which is sponsored by Farfetch, is meant to highlight “the image and legacy” of the late dowager duchess, who was known to her friends and family as Debo. It will look at her personality, values, passions — and wardrobe — and explore Chatsworth as a source of inspiration for the designer’s spring outing.

The designer was given permission to delve into the estate’s extensive archives by the Devonshire family and by the Chatsworth House Trust, the charity that looks after the house, garden and collections.

He used the late duchess’ extensive designer wardrobe (and the clothing she regularly picked up at agricultural shows) as inspiration. Moralioglu also repurposed archival fabrics, including historic curtains, that once hung within Chatsworth, for the collection.

The show will take a look behind the scenes, and examine the inspiration, craft and tools involved in translating the life and legacy of an individual subject into a full fashion collection.

EXCLUSIVE: Duchess of Devonshire’s Style, Chatsworth Inspire New Show of Erdem’s Designs

Backstage at Erdem spring 2024.

Lady Burlington, a fashion and retail consultant whose husband William Cavendish is heir to the Duke of Devonshire, said Chatsworth’s fashion archive “is perhaps a lesser-known part of the collection. But seeing Duchess Deborah’s clothing inspire this new body of work by Erdem, and being able to bring these pieces back to Chatsworth with the original source material, has been an incredibly rewarding process.

“Debo loved clothes and creativity and I hope she would be quietly pleased to see all these things she enjoyed inspire Erdem and fuel his work,” she added.

Moralioglu said he’s always wanted to create a collection based on the duchess and the history of Chatsworth. “I have long been fascinated by her story and found the archives at Chatsworth to be endlessly inspiring,” he said.

The late duchess famously loved fashion, with Lanvin, Balmain, Givenchy and Dior among her favorites. She also adored her chickens and had a thing for Elvis Presley. All of those elements played a part in Erdem’s spring 2024 show, which took place last September at the British Museum.

The designer even tapped Duchess Deborah’s great-granddaughter Cecily Lasnet (a daughter of the late Stella Tennant) to work on the embroidery.

Heirloom jewels and dragonfly brooches glittered from the bodices of strappy gowns or roomy slipdresses, nodding to the duchess’ collection of bejeweled bug designs. The collection also featured pin-neat tailoring and dramatic, patchwork cape coats (made with fabric sourced from Chatsworth) that were as languid as dressing gowns.

Susie Stokoe, head of textiles at Chatsworth, said that in recent years the collection has undergone a rigorous process of documentation, “making it accessible to researchers and designers. Seeing the historic collection brought to life and reimagined through a contemporary lens is incredibly important to us, and Erdem’s exploration of textiles, prints, jewelry and photographs in the Devonshire Collections demonstrates a valuable collaboration between past and present.”

EXCLUSIVE: Duchess of Devonshire’s Style, Chatsworth Inspire New Show of Erdem’s Designs

Erdem spring 2024.

“Imaginary Conversations” will take in memorabilia belonging to the duchess and the Lucian Freud portrait of her called “Woman in a White Shirt.” There will also be a re-creation of the cutting room in Erdem’s atelier, complete with mood boards, fabric samples and all the tools involved in designing a collection.

The show will feature select pieces from the late duchess’ jewelry collection, and examples of the designer’s lavish fabrics dotted with bejeweled bugs and embroidery. Textiles from the archive will be draped alongside the Erdem designs they inspired.

Moralioglu is not the first designer to find inspiration at Chatsworth, which is located in the Peak District National Park in Derbyshire, England.

In 2017, it hosted the show “House Style: Five Centuries of Fashion at Chatsworth,” a close-up of the aristocratic Devonshire family over five centuries through the lens of their lifestyle, fashion, uniforms, jewels, parties, art collections, traditions and love of the natural world.

The show was sponsored by Gucci. Its then-creative director Alessandro Michele had also used Chatsworth as a backdrop for two ad campaigns in 2016.

“Chatsworth is a magical place, not a monument, but a home,” Michele told WWD at the show’s opening.

He said he was inspired by all the nature that surrounded and filled it, the lush gardens, Debo’s bejeweled bug pins, the carved serpents on walls and columns (one of the family symbols), the cutout paper butterflies slipped into scrapbooks, and the family’s meticulously labeled rock, fossil and crystal collections.