It was exactly a year ago when Christopher Bailey remodelled Burberry's runway calendar. He aligned the shows with a see-now-buy-now retail model, altogether eliminating the six-month-long manufacturing gap between runway and retail.
Alongside the dramatic shift, Bailey converted his runway show into an ongoing exhibition titled Maker's House – one that was open to the public. Later in the following Spring 2017 show, he pulled off another Maker's House.
The Maker's House continuum came to a halt. Instead, he's holding a photography exhibition at the runway venue, due to begin two days after the show.
Leading up to this September 2017 show, Bailey left a trail of clues in the pre-show notes. While there was nothing about the clothes, there was a list of photographers tethered together by the exhibition's title, 'Here We Are'.
There's street photographer, the late Shirley Baker. She was known for photographing the social cleansing that took place in the roughest districts of Manchester and Salford.
Other names include the late film director, Ken Russell. In the late 50s, Russell documented the subculture of Teddy Boys and Girls – teenagers of working-class families dressed up in Edwardian suits. The late photographer Charlie Phillips, Brian Griffin, Karen Knorr and Alasdair McLellan were amongst them.
A running thread seems to hold the runway and exhibition together – a real, working-class Britain.
Bailey's fingers traced the thought of working-class Britain early June this year when he collaborated with Gosha Rubchinskiy's Spring Summer 2018 menswear collection.
In the collaboration, he reintroduced the infamous 50 pounds Burberry camel check baseball cap. In the early 2000s, the cap was frequently spotted on working-class football hooligans. The pessimistic association eventually led to customers boycotting the brand. In an attempt to recover its luxury image, Burberry discontinued the check – said plaid cap disappeared from the shelves and runways. Yet, Bailey has brought the working-class back to Burberry.
On his September 2017 collection's social exposé, Bailey said backstage, "A little more honest, a little less polished."
In London specifically, – where Bailey is based – 2017 has been plagued with a series of unfortunate events. The repercussions of Brexit, March's Westminister terror attack, the Finsbury Park incident, London Bridge attack and Grenfell Tower fire in June, and just last week, the Parsons Green tube bombing.
Take the Grenfell Tower fire, for instance, a majority of the victims were working-class. The lack of fire safety has been on many occasions, sounded out by the residents. Yet, they fell on deaf ears when the issue escalated to the town council and Theresa May's office.
Working-class residents make the bulk of Britain's population. In Britain, a social grading system persists – AB for the upper-class. C1 can be loosely translated to the middle-class. C2 and DE, however, make up 46.99% of the population. They are dubbed the working-class – and they remain unheard.
Bailey's statement could be read in many ways – a celebration or nostalgia for Britain's once lively sub-cultures or a call for attention to the working-class. The latter makes sense, for Bailey was born into a working-class family.
In 2007, Bailey revealed, "I came from a working-class background in Yorkshire and now I eat at the Wolseley." His father was a carpenter and mother, a windows-dresser for Marks and Spencer. The dichotomy in his life had to be reconciled someday.
This collection could mark the beginnings of Bailey's personal reconciliation. It is nonetheless, incredibly heartening to know that even as the rest of the fashion industry has glued their eyes to the top 1% upper-class consumers, Bailey is doing otherwise.
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