London’s history boy Erdem Moralioglu took Deborah, the late Duchess of Devonshire, as his latest muse for a collection that was at once lavish, and tattered.
The designer’s past collections have focused on a variety of grande dames of the 19th and 20th centuries, including aristocrats, photographers and other cultural figures, and now it’s Debo’s turn on the catwalk, and it’s something she surely would have enjoyed.
The late duchess loved fashion (Lanvin, Balmain and Dior among her favorites) and her chickens and, of course, Elvis. They were all part of Erdem’s spring show, which took place once again under the grand portico of the British Museum.
The collection also captured the spirit of Deborah’s former home, Chatsworth, one of England’s great estates. In order to pay the many bills, the resourceful, thrifty and hardworking Deborah helped transform Chatsworth into a commercial enterprise, opening it to the public, starting a farm shop and staging events.
Moralioglu worked with the archive teams at Chatsworth and with members of the family to source fabrics and images for this collection. He even tapped Deborah’s great-granddaughter Cecily Lasnet (the late Stella Tennant’s daughter) to work on the embroidery.
Full-skirted gowns and Fifties style prom dresses were made from tulle and flowery fabric and looked as if they’d been pieced together from curtains.
Dramatic, patchwork cape coats (made with fabric sourced from Chatsworth) were as languid as dressing gowns, while heirloom jewels and dragonfly brooches glittered from the bodices of strappy gowns or roomy slipdresses.
Moralioglu gave many of these pieces a contemporary twist, turning a slinky, neglige dress highlighter green, and making his oversized, studded Elvis jackets in petrol blue or emerald.
While all those bejeweled dresses, feathery coats, and velvet rose devoré may have been dazzling, practical-minded consumers might pass on the flash and opt instead for the slim, gossamer dresses, and pin-neat tailoring.
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