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Burberry Grit: Chavs, Checks, Warts and All

Defiant: A model wears a baseball cap reintroduced in vintage Burberry check in defiance of the once appropriation of the fashion accessory by chavs and football thugs at the Burberry September 2017 catwalk presentation at Sessions House during London Fashion Week

Burberry’s Christopher Bailey is in defiant mood and it shows in his 2017 catwalk presentation. He has reclaimed the label’s classic checks once favoured by so-called chavs and football hooligans together with this accompanying idiosyncratic photography exhibition, Here We are. Who needs gloss when you can have all the unvarnished essence in the world. Since the venerable British fashion label decamped from west London’s Kensington Gardens two seasons ago its art seems to constantly be imitating real life.

Bailey describes the inspiration behind this season’s creations: “When we started thinking about curating Here We Are, I knew I wanted it to celebrate a certain strand of British photography that I have always loved – one which documents the many and varied tribes and clans and classes that make up this island of ours. It has been an extraordinary privilege to gather together this collection of photographs, that have influenced me so much over the years. They provide a portrait of British life, in all its nuances, both exceptional and mundane, beautiful and harsh.

Belgravia, 1979– 81 | © Karen Knorr courtesy of Augusta Edwards Fine Art

“It’s the spirit of those photographs – sometimes ironic, sometimes tender, always truthful – that has guided our September collection. Together they will form an exhibition in our new show space, celebrating a very British way of life and way of dressing.”

There was the show at Makers House, off the Charing Cross Road that drew inspiration from British sculptor Henry Moore and the latest at the refurbished Old Sessions House in Clerkenwell, an 18th-century Grade II* listed building. It opened for use in 1782 as Middlesex Sessions House and was once the largest courthouse in England. With an architecture that has attracted attention from artists and topographers over the years, the building is Palladian in style, with a facade constructed in Portland stone and an interior featuring a grand coffered dome at its centre.

Notting Hill Couple, 1967 | © Charlie Phillips / www.akehurstcreativemanagement.com

The floorboards are creaking, the walls are painted in a mishmash of colours, and the beams are still exposed. But its rambling beauty is undeniable. And that dome will leave you breathless. Now throw in images that depict the quintessential British way of life from the weather, 9 to 5, gardens, class to picnics and romance.

For all you know this all could be set in Belgravia, Bayswater or Notting Hill. Karen Knorr’s annotated portraits of luxe interiors of Belgravia and her well-dressed subjects would have graced a million Instagram posts, while Ken Russell’s film, A House in Bayswater takes us to a house in Linden Gardens and its bohemian occupants. Charlie Phillip’s Notting Hill Couple shows us a glimpse of multicultural beginnings in this well-known west London neighbourhood.

  • Here We Are, 18 September — 01 October, Old Sessions House, 22 Clerkenwell Green, London EC1

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