I approached Burberry's Here We Are display with much anticipation, having visited and really enjoyed their Makers House exhibition, inspired by the work of Henry Moore earlier this year (here). Here We Are, is held in Clerkenwell at the Grade II listed Old Sessions House, originally built as a public meeting place. The place exudes history. The ground floor and lower floors once housed a court and prison cells, and the top floors were the former home to the Judge's Dining Rooms. Many prisoners sadly, would go on to suffer penal transportation to Australia from this building for their crimes. The building is also featured in literature, being the place where Dicken's Oliver Twist appeared before magistrates in 1837, after taking the blame for his pickpocket friend the Artful Dodger. I had passed the Old Sessions House on numerous occasions in the late 80s and 90s (as it was on my well-worn route to the former illustrators reference library just around the corner), and had often wondered what lay behind the imposing exterior of this attractive building. Here We Are gave me the chance to finally enter, and see for myself the now pared back but still beautiful interiors of this historic building. I wasn't disappointed. The central dome below, is absolutely magnificent.
Here We Are showcases Burberry's latest collection, and celebrates British photography which artfully complements the gorgeous clothes on display. The exhibition is spread across three floors, and is divided into sections dealing with typically British concerns such as the weather, gardens, picnics, work, pomp, social types and tastes, and also romance across religious and racial divides. There is so much to take in and contemplate.
The clothes this season are particularly impressive. There is meticulous attention to detail in the the combinations of colours and patterns - be they the traditional famed Burberry checks, the knitwear, or the interesting doodles and graffiti on the macs. I liked the delicate, floral machine embroidery on the gossamer dresses and skirts (below), and also the appropriation of traditionally masculine uniforms, with their connotations of war and violence, subverted and used in softer feminine guises as skirts. The jewellery in the form of large, bold brooches was also gorgeous, and brought to mind jewellery pieces created during the Art Deco era.
The photography was strong, incorporating memorable images by Martin Parr, Tessa Traeger, Ken Russell and Bill Brandt among many others. They complimented the clothes beautifully. Christopher Bailey and his team of co-curators Lucy Kumara Moore and Alasdair McLellan have done a wonderful job.
The Old Sessions House is such an interesting venue as you can see from the pictures. The former grandeur of the large rooms may now have gone with just layers of stripped and peeling paint and bare floorboards left, but despite this the rooms are still full of character. This Burberry show was a great chance to access this building, and it's a pity that we weren't allowed to go down into the cellars to see the originals spaces where the prisoner's cells would have been. I think it is a genius move on Burberry's part to have come up with these showcases which allow the public to access their collections as one would an art exhibition, as they demystify the processes of art production and of fashion design, and will I am sure inspire and breed a new generation of fashion and textile designers. Absolutely wonderful! Cannot wait to see where and what Burberry comes up with next.
Burberry: Here We Are
until 1st October
Old Sessions House
22 Clerkenwell Green