It was hard not to raise an eyebrow at the finale at Burberry’s “see now, buy now” Spring/Summer 2017 collection last Monday. A total of 78 individual capes, unrelated to the one before and the one that followed, adorned the shoulders of models. Beautifully sculptured, hand-crafted and intricate pieces. Was it couture? Or did it just feel too graduate show?
On seeing that finale walk, first thoughts raced back to the famous “White Project” Central Saint Martins give their first-year students too. It’s a big deal. Students fashion up a look, entirely of white in the most obscure and radical silhouettes, fabrics and textures. To then be paraded in the new King’s Cross college campus whilst the other students of UAL peer down from balcony’s. Each look is different but all hold a sense of unity with that “student” feel to it. That’s the sort of feeling that comes with Burberry’s couture capes that accompanied the Spring/Summer 2017 collection. As if Bailey said to his team of designers, “your runway challenge this week: a celebration of Henry Moore.”
Yet at Makers House, Burberry’s pop up exhibition for the second year in a row puts the collection into perspective. As you enter you’re greeted with a very large sheep topiary in a room of mirrors. In front, there is a video on loop of the latest runway show and to the right a room of posters, flyers and all sorts on Henry Moore’s work. Pleasant and visually stimulating so far. I already have a free exhibition poster in my bag.
I’ve already spotted two smaller scale Henry Moore sculptures. Someone else has spotted them too and mistaken it as a seat. The 78 capes are next up as they hang from the ceiling, slowly spinning. From there, on display are the remaining capes along with much larger sculptural pieces from Moore and adjacent is the latest Burberry collection. Upstairs the process behind the sculptures and the collection sit side by side – the exhibition highlight I must admit.
It is hard not to marvel at the exhibition in an even more extraordinary space. Moore’s imposing sculptures, working models and maquettes inspires the scale and form of the 78 couture capes, each handmade and created using unique constructions. With no barriers, one could be up close and see every visible, painstakingly 153’000 cotton stitch of silk organza and soutache embroidery. A hand-applied tassel and copper bullion-thread motif cape taken more than 100 hours to embroider. Next to it is a competing cape that took over 1’500 hours of workmanship. These couture capes are nothing short from incredibly beautiful.
The whole presence of Henry Moore looms over here. It’s seen in the high-waisted trousers paired with crisp white shirts. Or lace embroidered Breton tops inspired by the latticework mesh that would support the structures of these sculptures that sit across from the collection. Washed cottons, soft linens and workwear denims resemble craftmanship. Whilst asymmetric, reworked heavy knitwear options are slightly off-balanced reflects the disproportionate sculptures. Fabrics that send out the smell of brisk air and fresh-cut grass at Henry Moore’s studio and gardens in rural Hertfordshire.
As you see the union of Henry Moore and Burberry’s work come together, you can see each plausible link made and it’s 360 journey. This is an exhibition that fuels your appreciation and admiration for craftsmanship and process. Here is an exhibition that marries art and fashion together with a look at the more logical and inner-workings of the creative mind of how we go from sketch to product. The couture capes are wonders and are to be amazed and gawked at. No surprise these capes are made to order and I can imagine performers will be snapping them up for their next world tours. Yet the real winner is the collection itself sitting with Moore’s own body of work. Bailey demonstrates that there is hope for the return of craft and process once again.
All photos are my own.