Black culture's hidden contribution to British design in London exhibition

The unique contribution of Black culture to Britain’s rich design history is being showcased at a major new exhibition in London this week with significant input from Liverpool John Moores University.

The exhibition at Somerset House examines how the cultural, political and socio-economic backdrop of the 20th and 21st centuries have shaped the identity of Black style and mainstream fashion culture. Extending beyond the realm of the catwalk, the exhibition spotlights the impact of Black creativity through music, photography, art and design.

The Missing Thread - Untold Stories of Black British Fashion charts the shifting landscape of Black British culture and its contribution to design from the 1970s on,” says Andrew Ibi, co-curator of the exhibition and programme leader in Fashion at Liverpool School of Art and Design.

“Black creativity has had a profound influence on British culture and continues to be referenced to great effect, often without acknowledgement. The exhibition seeks to redress this, celebrating the unique visions of Black creatives who were denied access to the fashion industry, or who despite achieving great success, have had their contributions misrepresented or excluded from the story of British fashion.”

Rather than approaching fashion as an artform created in isolation, the exhibition places garments alongside artworks, cultural artefacts, music, memorabilia, videos and installations.

It will also spotlight Britain's most influential Black fashion designers, like the late Joe Casely-Hayford, and contemporary designers, Nicholas Daley, Bianca Saunders and Saul Nash.

The event which opens on Thursday, 21 September at Somerset House, on the Thames, is curated by The Black Orientated Legacy Development Agency (BOLD) - a creative, design development agency working to forge structural and institutional change across the fashion industry and beyond, initiated by Ibi, Harris Elliott and Jason Jules.

Andrew, who has worked towards this platform for five years, says the process has had a sharp focus on institutional change and legacy and has already had a huge impact on fashion education with the announcement of the Joe Casely-Hayford Scholarship for Black students through the British Fashion Council.

Andrew said: “I am a member of the selection panel having worked with Joe Casely-Hayford as a designer at the end of the 90s and with years of educational experience across multiple UK institutions.”

And he insists the exhibition has an appeal much broader than the base subject: “This is not about fashion per se - it is a story about people, politics, resistance, ingenuity, creativity and triumph.”

The exhibition runs until 7 January 2024. Read more.

Header image: Eileen Perrier, Untitled 1, Afro Hair and Beauty, 1998 © Eileen Perrier


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