North: Identity, Photography, Fashion


Raf Simons menswear Autumn Winter 2003Paris Menswear Fashion Week. Picture: North: Identity, Photography, Fashion

Whether it’s the smoky post-Industrial Revolution past or its battle for political dominance with the South, the bolshy spirit of the north of England has given rise to some of the 20th century's most influential cultural movements.

From the fantasty of milliner Stephen Jones and street-influenced menswear designer Christopher Shannon to the gothic machinations of Sunderland-educated Gareth Pugh, the north has also birthed some of the UK's best designers.

Now a new exhibition at the iconic Open Eye Gallery in Liverpool aims to bring together collective visions of the North, unpicking tropes and themes, and blending them with ideas about identity, community and broader culture. Co-curated by academic Adam Murray and Lou Stoppard, a writer, broadcaster and editor-at-large for fashion website SHOWstudio, North: Identity, Photography, Fashion explores the region’s homegrown creative output as well as its global influence.

Derrin Crawford and Demi-Leigh Cruickshank in ‘The Liver Birds’, LOVE magazine, Liverpool, 2012. Photograph: Alice Hawkins

It does this through an impressive array of clothing, vintage and modern, artwork, documentary images, fashion shoots and interviews. Fashion editorials by Tim Walker for Briitsh Vogue and Alasdair McLellan for i-D For Murray which reference northern England in their use of terraced houses, brick walls and washing lines in back gardens mark a yen for a new grittiness in fashion.

Madchester - its sounds and aesthetic - makes its impact known in original prints from Glen Luchford's first shoot, a session with The Stone Roses for The Face in 1989, as well as in a Raf Simons parka from the Belgian designer’s A/W 2003 Control collection. The parka features graphics from the archive of Peter Saville, designer for Factory Records, and sold recently for $20,000.

And, of course, there is the sportswear. Born in the north in the 1980s, the repercussions of the new casual continues to permeate international fashion runways, enabling new silhouettes and challenging notions of gender and luxury.

Untitled, Manchester, 1997-01. Photograph: Jason Evans

Think Gosha Rubchinskiy SS17 which featured tracksuits by Sergio Tacchini, Kappa and Fila; Raf Simons SS16 which referenced Mark Leckey’s film Fiorucci Made Me Hardcore; any number of expensive sportswear-inspired designer wear. New collaborative work from the likes of Virgil Abloh and Hacienda designer Ben Kelly highlights the continuing influence.

There are designs by the now defunct New Power Studio, one of the original recipients of Fashion East's MAN award, alongside new design by rising talents such as John Alexander Skelton. A series of interviews with more Northern born and bred including Claire Barrow, Simon Foxton, Jones and Shannon is featured in SHOWStudio film. And last but not least, iconic archive sneakers by Adidas, which also supports the show, will also be on display.

Till March 19, 2017. Open Eye Gallery, 19 Mann Island, Liverpool Waterfront L3 1BP. Twitter: @OpenEyeGallery. Facebook: /OpenEyeGallery. Instagram: @openeyegallery.