Imaginary Conversations: ERDEM’s Love Letter to Duchess Deborah at Chatsworth House

Chatsworth House, a historic gem in the Derbyshire Dales, is hosting a captivating new exhibition titled "Imaginary Conversations." Running from June 22 to October 20, 2024, this exhibition intertwines the legacy of the late Dowager Duchess Deborah Devonshire with the visionary Spring/Summer 2024 collection of fashion designer Erdem Moralioglu.

A Dialogue Between Past and Present

A fusion of history, fashion, and creativity. The "Imaginary Conversations" project focuses on how Erdem Moralioglu found inspiration in the Duchess's exquisite wardrobe for his Spring/Summer 2024 collection. The exhibition offers visitors an immersive experience, exploring the creative process that showcases the marriage between a legendary style icon and contemporary fashion. What is more, throughout "Imaginary Conversations," large-scale projections of the Spring/Summer 2024 catwalk show immerse visitors in the live experience of Erdem’s collection, effectively bringing the fashion show to its spiritual home and celebrating the unique power of fashion that never fades, but only gets stronger through time.

“I have always wanted to create a collection on Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire and the history of Chatsworth,” explains Erdem Moralioglu, who was granted exclusive access to the extensive archives at Chatsworth by the Chatsworth House Trust and the Devonshire family. “I have long been fascinated by her story and found the archives at Chatsworth to be endlessly inspiring,” This collaboration allowed Moralioglu to delve deep into the Duchess's life, repurposing archival fabrics, including historic curtains from Chatsworth, into his new collection, bridging the past and present and highlighting the enduring relevance of the style icon’s legacy.

The exhibition is not only a tribute to Duchess Deborah but also a celebration of the creative synergy between historical preservation and modern fashion design. The accessibility of Chatsworth’s textiles collection has been instrumental in fostering this unique collaboration. As Susie Stokoe, Head of Textiles at Chatsworth, remarks, "‘In recent years, the textiles collection at Chatsworth has undergone a rigorous process of documentation, making the collection accessible to researchers and designers. It is a joy to see the collection being used as a point of inspiration by Erdem. 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, jewellery and photographs in the Devonshire Collections demonstrates a valuable collaboration between past and present."

A Journey Through Chatsworth's Historic Rooms

The "Imaginary Conversations" is carefully curated across several of Chatsworth’s Regency Guest Bedrooms, each room designed to reflect different aspects of Duchess Deborah's life and Erdem’s creative interpretation. For example, Wellington Bedroom serves as an intimate introduction to the Duchess’s world and her lasting impact on fashion. Here, visitors can see Duchess Deborah’s inspirations and passions juxtaposed with Erdem’s designs. In Leicester Bedroom one can appreciate a dramatic display of archival textiles, featuring fabrics such as the repurposed Chatsworth curtains, that create a visual narrative where Erdem’s garments seem to emerge organically from Chatsworth's very walls. Wellington Dressing Room offers a personal glimpse into the Duchess’ unique wardrobe (her cherished Elvis slippers are also on view). Dominated by a large portrait of the duchess by John Ulbricht, Queen of Scots’ Bedroom showcases select pieces from her legendary insect-themed jewellery collection alongside Erdem’s bejewelled and embroidered designs. Meanwhile, Queen of Scots’ Dressing Room replicates Erdem’s atelier, providing insight into the designer’s process. Tools, fabric boards, and toiles—the foundational pieces of his collection—are displayed alongside Duchess Deborah’s couture garments. The exhibition concludes in the Queen of Scots’ Lobby, with personal items of the Duchess, including letters and photographs. A recording of Duchess Deborah’s voice adds a poignant touch, enhancing the time-bending connection between her legacy and Erdem’s Spring-Summer 2024 collection. A must-see.

Courtesy: ERDEM

Text: Leilani Streshinsky