#SuzyLFW: Burberry - Inspired By Henry Moore

The monumental sculptures, abstracting the natural form of the body, made a noble and exceptional backdrop in the show's venue, Makers House, formerly Foyles bookshop.

This was the moment that Burberry and its creative director Christopher Bailey faced-off with Henry Moore, the British modernist sculptor who died in the Eighties.

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The show, in which Bailey presented curves and shoulder shapes inspired by the cast bronze statues and displayed photos of the sculptor at work, raised once again the question that has hovered in the air for at least three decades: Is fashion art?

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And in Bailey's case, can you send a coherent message in a collection of clothes, often focused on the shoulder, that are presented in the finale with threads of style going way back to Elizabethan times?

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The show might have seemed like an elaborate fashion farce, but the humility of Bailey in the face of great and historical art, and the fact that the exhibition, Henry Moore: Inspiration & Process, is open to the public until 27 February, mitigates any suggestion that Burberry was trying to compete with one of Britain's most important artists. The overall effect of the presentation was noble and powerful.

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"It was very much about the working process and I can say that I worked very closely with the Henry Moore Foundation on his processes - not just the beautiful finished pieces," Bailey explained.

"I liked the way of trying to take clothes and change the shape of the body by moving the seams and the lines and the pieces that wrap around the body in a more unconventional way," he continued.

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“Moore’s work is really about changing the form. Pulling it in different directions. For example, his shoulder was suddenly up here, the breasts were suddenly down here, and I quite liked that idea of putting something on and then turning it in a completely different way, and how can I construct it like that."

The collection was divided into three parts - clothes for women and men that are on-sale immediately for Spring/Summer 2017 in the see-now, buy-now model. And more experimental pieces (again for both sexes) that can be ordered in the spirit of couture.

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From the start, with the famous Burberry trench coat sculpted down almost to the waist at the front and with a drape towards an uneven hem, Bailey's look referenced Moore. But it also zoomed in on the shoulders that were the focus of Thomas Burberry when he first made army greatcoats.

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For today, the look might be a dress pulled down at an angle over one shoulder, revealing the white shirt underneath, with a similar effect when a cable knit sweater had an extra panel appearing from the shoulder. That was worn over a milkmaid cotton dress, displaying the first contrast with the Henry Moore spirit - a pursuit of prettiness rather than a noble simplicity.

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This insertion of femininity continued with a mesh skirt, more lacy cottons and what became a focus of the show - a brief shoulder shrug. After many variations of the bared shoulder or repeated work on that area (for both sexes), the exaggerated shoulders went into full throttle for the finale pieces. There, frills and furbelows cascaded over shoulders, some creating ruffs that would not have disgraced Queen Elizabeth I, or those noble males in Dutch portraits of the early 17th century.

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Add what looked like crystals from a dismantled chandelier and the finale became a full on fashion drama.
Greeting celebrities like Penelope Cruz, Naomi Campbell and Chinese-Canadian heartthrob Kris Wu, Bailey tried to explain the conclusion of the show that seemed baffling in relation to the trench warfare history of Burberry.

“The choice of capes was because I wanted to do a study on the shoulder," Bailey said. "It is so much a part of the trench coat. It’s so much the way that Henry Moore started a lot of his works. So, I just wanted to do a little project where we played with the idea of these capes and the shoulder. So yes, it will be made – but each one is individual."

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I asked Mary Moore, the sculptor's daughter, the keeper of the flame and the controller of the family legacy, how she felt about agreeing and co-operating with Burberry. That included many of the loans that helped to make the display into a genuine exhibition, with not just the sculptures, but also Henry Moore's tools, photographs and films of him at work and even a wall of exhibition posters.

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“I think they’re very different - art is not fashion and fashion isn’t art," Mary Moore said. "Actually, that’s quite good, that they are two very separate things. I think it’s silly to pretend they’re the same. It's great that they’re separate. And it’s great that the show is on, and a lot of people who would not expose themselves to maybe a museum, maybe art, will actually be interested enough to come and look at the sculptures."

Vogue

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