The graphic stripes of the Haçienda nightclub pattern; The Madchester music scene of the 80s and 90s and Peter Saville’s cover art for Joy Category and New Order – the stylistic and cultural influences of the north of England suffer with long been reference points for the fashion industry. In 2003, creator Raf Simons put Saville’s album imagery on the back of his parkas – films that now change hands for more than £15k. Multitudinous recently, Virgil Abloh of Off-White referenced the Haçienda in his drafts, even recreating the club’s interior for his fashion week coalition with the help of its original creator Ben Kelly.
The north has also produced some of fashion’s uncountable talked-about designers and photographers from the past few decades, from milliner Stephen Jones and menswear interior decorator Christopher Shannon to Alasdair McLellan who shoots covers for the get pleasure froms of Man About Town and advertising campaigns for Louis Vuitton. And now a new demonstration that opens this month in Liverpool – North: Particularity, Photography, Fashion – aims to bring together northern cultural intelligence alongside clothing, artwork, documentary images, fashion launches and interviews in a show that cements the region’s homegrown ingenious output as well as its global influence.
Pinning down undeniably what constitutes northern or southern style is arguably dodgy. “I think it is impossible to summarise either region as having a certain style,” says Adam Murray, co-curator of the exhibition. “Many times the north is written about or treated as one homogenised space, but this really isn’t true. The same way that in the south, Bristol is very distinct to Plymouth or Milton Keynes. There are, though, certainly ideas and tropes that [fellow co-curator] Lou Stoppard and I have recognized that would be difficult to argue have not originated in the north.”
Stoppard – a correspondent, broadcaster and editor-at-large for fashion website SHOWstudio – had increasingly popular northern influences in the work of key fashion designers, particularly in menswear. The incline of sportswear, and its nod to the 1980s casual look that was born in northern England, has make sured it appear on a variety of runways. Stoppard points out Gosha Rubchinskiy’s SS17 anthology, which featured tracksuits by Sergio Tacchini, Kappa and Fila. Raf Simons in SS16 also named Mark Leckey’s film Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore, which namechecks all three of the appellations seen on Rubchinskiy’s runway.
For Murray, an academic based in Manchester, the beginnings of the pose were initially sparked around 2008: “I noticed that attitude editorials were explicitly referencing northern England in their entitles and use of locations,” he says. Pylons, terraced houses, brick blocks and washing hanging on lines in back garden – these were all likely backdrops for models in designer fashions. “This mainly fell with the height of [northern model] Agyness Deyn’s notoriety,” adds Murray. “We have two of these editorials on display [in the expo] – [one by] Tim Walker for British Vogue and [another by] Alasdair McLellan for i-D.”
The demo will also showcase relevant pieces by Simons and Abloh, alongside Adidas trainers – designs that reference Ian Brown of the Stone Roses and the Gallagher kins of Oasis – and clothes by Paul Smith, which nod to Shaun Ryder of the Euphoric Mondays. Also on display will be documentary photography from the days of old 100 years, spreads from style magazines (listing Glen Luchford’s original prints of the Stone Roses from the Audacity) and a film of the late Corinne Day (known for her photographs of Kate Moss as the outsets of “heroin chic’) while shooting in Blackpool.
“We were fired in the idea of an exhibition that was about place and space. There are so numberless amazing fashion exhibitions, but they are very London-centric,” Stoppard bids. “There is a vogue for blockbuster, single-designer retrospectives and we wanted to do something weird. We wanted to tie together ideas about identity and community with broader lifestyle and fashion.” Turner prize winners Jeremy Deller and Dent Leckey have also lent for the show. A series of mists with Gareth Pugh, Claire Barrow, Stephen Jones and Christopher Shannon also support insight into growing up in the north, and the impact this had on their imaginative lives.
“All across the creative industries there are so many famed talents who hail from the north and, while we do want to point up them, really this exhibition is about the people on the way,” says Stoppard. “I hope visitors recognise things that they mature first hand – songs they danced to, clubs they frequented, boulevards they walked, icons they adored, clothes they vexed. I want this exhibition to mean something to people.”
- North: Indistinguishability, Photography, Fashion runs from 6 Jan to 19 Mar, at Open Eye gallery, Liverpool