Imaginary Conversations is a new exhibition in the guest bedrooms at Chatsworth celebrating the legacy of the late dowager Duchess Deborah Devonshire (1920-2014) and the Devonshire Collections, and how they inspired the Spring Summer 2024 collection of fashion designer Erdem Moralioglu.

The exhibition examines the house as a source of inspiration for Erdem, welcoming visitors into Duchess Deborah’s world and revealing how the history and archives at Chatsworth informed the creative process for this new fashion collection. 

Fascinated by her story and style, Erdem was given permission by Chatsworth House Trust and the Devonshire family, to dedicate his Spring Summer 2024 collection to Duchess Deborah.

As part of the research and development process for the collection, Erdem and his design team were given access to the extensive archives at Chatsworth. Archival fabrics from the collection, including historic curtains that once hung within Chatsworth, were reimagined into the collection along with the shapes, silhouettes and styles of the pieces Duchess Deborah wore. 

The resulting exhibition, set within the Regency Guest Bedrooms at Chatsworth, offers a remarkable insight into both Duchess Deborah’s life and Erdem’s design process, showcasing the inspiration, craft and tools involved in translating the life and legacy of an individual into a fully realised fashion collection.

As the exhibition title suggests, the creative process is much like a conversation between designer and subject, resulting in a collection inspired by Duchess Deborah’s personality, values and passions, as much as her wardrobe.

Throughout the exhibition, the boundaries between the house, the duchess’s archive, and Erdem’s own material and collection, are frequently blurred, interspersed and interwoven. Imaginary Conversations reveals the biographical and anthropological power of fashion to tell ongoing stories that bring together people, time and place. 

About the exhibition

The plan, at the time of publication, is for the exhibition to begin in the Queen of Scots’ Lobby. Cases will be filled with material that once belonged to Duchess Deborah, including letters, objects and photographs of particular inspiration to Erdem.

A recording of the duchess’s voice, used in the Spring Summer 24 fashion show soundtrack for the launch at the British Museum, will play in the background, and Lucian Freud’s portrait of the duchess, Woman in a White Shirt, will bring her voice to life.

Entering the Queen of Scots’ Dressing Room, visitors will be transported to a cutting room in Erdem’s atelier, seeing up close the tools and processes involved in designing a fashion collection. Fabric boards and maquettes will be joined by the toiles that were the starting point for the collection, together with garments from Duchess Deborah’s own couture collection. 

In the Queen of Scots’ Bedroom, visitors will be greeted by a large portrait of Duchess Deborah by John Ulbricht.

In the Alcove Bedroom, select pieces from Duchess Deborah’s legendary jewellery collection of insects will be displayed in cases alongside pieces from Erdem’s collection, featuring bejewelled and embroidered textiles, as if the insects have taken flight from their cases and landed on the garments.

The Leicester Bedroom will be a dramatic combination of large swathes of draped textiles from the Devonshire archive set amongst mannequins wearing pieces from Erdem’s collection featuring the archival curtain material. The interplay of textiles gives the impression that the garments are emerging from the very fabric of the building itself.

In the Wellington Dressing Room next door, attention will be drawn to a single exhibit in a case by the Polonaise bed – Duchess Deborah’s legendary, cherished Elvis slippers.

The exhibition will conclude in the Wellington Bedroom, where Duchess Deborah’s own inspirations and passions are to be displayed alongside looks from Erdem’s collection that honour them. 

At various points throughout the exhibition, largescale projections will play the Spring Summer 24 catwalk show, immersing visitors in the live experience and bringing the fashion show back to its spiritual home. 

Access to Imaginary Conversations is included with all house and garden tickets between 22 June and 20 October 2024. There will also be a series of curator tours taking place throughout the summer. 

‘I have always wanted to create a collection on Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire and the history of Chatsworth. I have long been fascinated by her story and found the archives at Chatsworth to be endlessly inspiring.’

-    Erdem Moralioglu MBE 

‘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.’

-    Lady Burlington

“For five centuries, Chatsworth has been a home of creativity and a source of inspiration for countless designers, makers, and artists, and we are delighted to build on this legacy with Imaginary Conversations. The exhibition provides insight into Erdem's creative process, from the initial thrill of discovery when delving into the Devonshire Archives, to the artistry and techniques of his new designs. As a charity, we care for the incredible Devonshire Collections in order to share them with everyone. It is so exciting to see the historic collections reimagined through a contemporary lens in this way, and we hope that by sharing the process behind this collaboration we can inspire the next generation of creative leaders.”

-    Jane Marriott, Director, Chatsworth House Trust

‘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 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.’

-    Susie Stokoe, Head of Textiles, Chatsworth 

Imaginary Conversations is sponsored by Farfetch


ERDEM is an independent house of bold fashion for women, based in London. Founded in 2005 by designer Erdem Moralioglu MBE, the brand has forged its own path within the industry. Poetic and rigorous, ageless and timeless, powerful and versatile, Erdem's world is an intriguing interplay of strength and beauty.

In eighteen years, Erdem has established an exuberant language of femininity that transcends fashion to inspire strength and confidence in the women for whom he designs. It is a passionate language that is evocative and eccentric in character, fluently spoken with a beauty that is intense and romantic. The house of ERDEM is cultured and erudite, underpinned by a belief in the power and skill of craftsmanship. Mind and hand work together to bring imagination to life with precision, artistry and the compelling dexterity of the handmade. Respect for traditional skills is combined with an excitement for innovation, in technique and application. Erdem is at heart a storyteller. Collections are formed around a narrative, championing heroic women at a particular place and a moment in time. The Erdem flagship store opened in 2015 on South Audley Street, Mayfair. 

Visit website


Farfetch is a leading global marketplace for the luxury fashion industry. Farfetch connects customers in over 190 countries and territories with items from more than 50 countries and over 1,400 of the world’s best brands, boutiques, and department stores, delivering a truly unique shopping experience and access to the most extensive selection of luxury on a global marketplace.

Visit website

Image credits:
Images of Duchess Deborah from the Cecil Beaton Archive, © Condé Nast
Images of ERDEM Spring Summer 2024, © Jason Lloyd Evans

You may also be interested in...

Latest news

Newsletter sign-up

Never miss a thing. Stay up to date with our latest news, offers and events by entering your details below:

We use a third party provider to share our email newsletters. We collect statistics, including email opens and clicks, using industry standard technologies, such as clear gifs, to help us improve our newsletter content making it more interesting and relevant. You can learn more in our privacy policy.