Sometimes ironic, sometimes tender, always truthful: this is how Christopher Bailey, Burberry’s president and chief creative director, describes the brand’s September 2017 collection.
To celebrate this, Burberry has put on an exhibition called “Here We Are.” It’s a showcase of British portrait photography. In Bailey’s own words, it’s about “a very British way of life and way of dressing.”
I had seen ads for the show around my neighborhood and taken a peek at it via The Guardian. So I decided to pop in and see what all the hype was about.
Before I went, I also tried out Leon, a wholesome fast food joint. There are several locations around London and there just so happened to be one up the street from Old Sessions House, Burberry’s new spot for its events.
I ordered a mushroom burger with halloumi, a lemon-lime-ginger drink and the best darn chocolate chip cookie I’ve had in awhile: perfectly crunchy on the outside and the right amount of soft and melty on the inside. After taking in the bliss of it all, I headed off to the exhibition.
Going off the premise of groundbreaking British portraiture, the exhibition features the work of Shirley Baker, Ken Russell, Dafydd Jones and Alasdair McLellan.
Baker focused on portraying the realities of working class life in Manchester and Salford, England. Russell’s work has a reputation for debauchery and decadence, especially that tied to religious imagery.
Jones, who is still alive and shooting today, concentrates his work around capturing the partying spirit. Likewise, McLellan shoots fashion editorials and is the creative force behind several of The xx’s music videos. McLellan also co-curated this exhibition.
On the bottom floor of the exhibition space, there were two little art video installations running ads for the September 2017 collection. It felt fitting in this melange of “old school meets new school” and “fashion show meets art gallery” Burberry was putting on.
Here is some of the footage on display in “Here We Are.” The promotional video was shot by McLellan.
In the upstairs show space were the actual Burberry garments. The selection was brimming was argyle and plaid (naturally) and khaki and more argyle and wool and cable-knit and tulle.
The thread of femininity running throughout the menswear is an element that stuck out to me. Glittering brooches were reserved for the masculine-aligned looks.
Burberry didn’t just blur the lines of gender in their styling. The brand also mixed patterns and textures. Plaid nestled with stripes. Lace and plastic can co-exist on one body, Burberry says. As can wool and leather.
The concept of old school meets new school was driven home by the Cure and Depeche Mode tracks spinning in the background.
The second room on the top floor simply contained more clothes. Of course, what else could you expect from a Burberry event? This next batch of September 2017 Burberry looks rested quietly under the vintage photographs up on the wall.
Again, the glamour was reserved for the masculine mannequins.
In a room off this show space, I spotted a curious looking green nook out of the corner of my eye.
I had to go check it out.
Visiting the Sessions House this evening proved to be a worthwhile trip. As far as enjoying art or exhibitions go, it was pleasantly strange to observe a body work happening largely in real time. These clothes walked across a runway just the other day. The looks, staged in this museum-like setting, are for sale right now.
It’s puzzling to think about how the old influences the new (hence the exhibition in the first place) and yet “the new” can literally be evolving and expanding up until the very minute. And if we are watching, we get a front-row seat to that process.
Part of this duality can be seen in Burberry’s philosophy elsewhere. Under Bailey, Burberry started releasing “seasonless collections” last year. This way, clothes are more accessible to those who want buy them. There isn’t the typical 6-month wait. Now, Burberry lovers can have instant gratification.
If nothing else, “Here We Are” demonstrated how distance and immediacy can harmonize within one space.