North: Fashioning Identity, on show in central London, explores how life in the north inspired a generation of creatives
Curlers and Chips, Yorkshire, 1965, from North: Fashioning Identity. Photograph: John Bulmer/Sunday Times Magazine
A new exhibition celebrating the north of England and northerners’ influence on photography, fashion and art will open at Somerset House in London on Wednesday.
North: Fashioning Identity features more than 100 photographs, fashion garments and works of art, including photographer Glen Luchford’s images of the Stone Roses for the Face magazine and Nottingham-born designer Paul Smith’s Japanese sub-line, R Newbold.
These will sit alongside social documentary film and photography, which highlight how the realities of life in the north of England captured in the mid-20th century continue to influence a new generation of creatives.
The show, according to Somerset House, “unpicks the themes and tropes present in these collective visions of northern England, from Berwick-upon-Tweed to Birkenhead, Doncaster to Preston, considering why these regions, or representations of these regions, are increasingly a source of inspiration and still so idealised today”.
Derrin Crawford and Demi Leigh Cruickshank in The Liver Birds, a shoot for Love magazine in Liverpool in 2012. Photograph: Alice Hawkins
The exhibition is curated by Lou Stoppard, editor-at-large of the SHOWstudio website, and Adam Murray, lecturer at Manchester School of Art and Central Saint Martins.
It opens in partnership with Liverpool’s Open Eye Gallery, where it debuted. The London show will include more than 20 new works.
“In the mid-2000s, there was a resurgence of interest in work that explicitly referenced northern England,” Murray told the British Journal of Photography.
“Agyness Deyn [a Mancunian] was becoming quite a successful model and practitioners like [Doncaster-born photographer] Alasdair McLellan were becoming recognised names, and their work constantly referenced the north.
“Then things like Brexit happened, and there seemed to be a resurgent interest in what the north actually is now.”
The exhibition features personal reflections by artists on their sense of northern identity, as well as a new film by McLellan, in which he revisits sites of his youth.
It will also showcase the international impact of northern style and culture, “from Belgian-born Raf Simons’ parkas with [Factory Records art director] Peter Saville prints to the Haçienda-inspired designs of American fashion designer and creative director of Off White, Virgil Abloh”.
From Preston Bus Station, 2010-2015. Photograph: Jamie Hawkesworth
Other creatives featured include Shirley Baker, Jeremy Deller, Corinne Day, Jamie Hawkesworth, Stephen Jones, Nick Knight, Mark Leckey, Gareth Pugh and David Sims.
The curators have said they hope the exhibition provokes younger people to think about what the north means to them and how it has changed since the 1980s and 90s.
“It’s about learning how common themes and shared understandings are built,” said Stoppard.
“If you say ‘northern England’ to someone, they have a visual idea of what it looks like and that’s been encouraged by fashion photography. There are motifs and themes that people imagine in the same way as they would with Paris, New York or Rio.
“We just wanted to explore where those things come from, and to work out which stereotypes are true, I suppose.”
Writing in Time Out, one Newcastle-born author discussed the significance of exhibition for her.
“The north/south divide is real, but this exhibition should highlight just how important, intelligent, interesting and damn fashionable northerners were, are and always will be,” said Emmie Harrison.
“Among other things, you can discover how Manchester’s Haçienda found its way into the work of American fashion designer Virgil Abloh, and why the parka got appropriated around the world.”
Somerset House will also hold a series of events around the subject, including a panel discussion with Stoppard and Murray, who will share stories behind the initial development of the show.
North: Fashioning Identity runs from 8 November to 4 February 2018 at Somerset House in the Strand.
This article was amended on 8 November 2017 because Paul Smith was born in Nottingham, not Manchester as an earlier version said.