That tracky. Those Adidas trainees. That gravity-defying Morrissey mop your ma always told you to get rid of.
Well, it’s all equated to an internationally recognised (and copied) fashion identity rich with Northern flare, and a sparky Northern attitude to match. Who knew little old us could inspire a vast wave of fashion and visual culture on the rest of the world. The ‘Grim North’: no more.
Open Eye Gallery is spoiling us: their 40th birthday has called for a complete celebration of the North of England’s astronomical influence on global fashion and design, and it’s perfect. Bringing inspiring photography to the people of Liverpool since 1977, North: Identity, Photography and Fashion feels like an homage fit for a region that has never been content with conforming and ticking just one box.
A co-curation between SHOWstudio editor Lou Stoppard and Fashion Communication lecturer Adam Murray, prepare to unpick Northern identity from its very roots as you journey through the effects of cultural history and geographical space on international creative output, and the endless importance of place on personal identity.
North hails from questioning the North of England’s existing depiction in fashion imagery; willing to debunk the clichés and habits of international imagination that lie at the heart of what Northernness actually is. Photographs, artworks and fashion collections are all in the mix for you to fully explore, from some of fashion’s most notable image-makers. We went down. Loved it. Now it’s your turn.
Alongside the contemporary wares of Turner Prize winners Mark Leckey and Jeremy Deller, a mod-esque parka from Antwerp-born designer Raf Simons hangs, repurposed by graphic designer Peter Saville, who created the illustrious sleeves of Factory Records, Joy Division and New Order. With Joy Division’s Unknown Pleasures and New Order’s Power Corruption and Lies now modern staples on walls and t shirts of nearly every human on the planet, this is a real treat (its current value is a whopping $20,000, we’ll get saving).
You’ll probably recognise Glen Luchford’s first ever shoot with those cheeky chappies, The Stone Roses back in 1989 on the walls too. Their anti-try-too-hard look has inspired millions, with kids these days still sporting the stonewash Levis, flannel shirts and messy mops from those bygone mad-for-it streets.
Former unisex label New Power Studio have put their manipulation into our everyday well-loved garments of tracky bottoms, long sleeve polos and shirts which, although the label is now somewhat defunct, give a glimmer of a familiar fashion identity that every Northerner knows well. Then there’s the work by the Hacienda design guru, Ben Kelly, and a pretty impressive locker of the Northern holy grail shoe, Adidas, culminating in a real celebration of Northern style identity and its palpable energy. Team all that with visuals/audio of geographical landmarks, the everyday northern life and archives of 90s rave vids, North is a complete immersion of our northern spirit, then and now. North has left no stone unturned.
Enjoying the unconventional and experimental art exhibitions that Liverpool is frequently home to is one thing, but this exhibition just feels like home. Where many art pieces rely on an out-of-the-box imagination, North’s pieces bring you that story, that connection to everyday humanity, an identity that you recognise – and one that you might even hold yourself. Everything is juxtaposed perfectly, effortlessly; it feels like a long awaited tribute to the unique people of a misunderstood landscape.
What’s so compelling about the North is our pride in our authenticity. Our fashion, our music, the different accents we have (no matter how incoherent) – the fact that some of the South still think we work ‘down the mines’ and have outside toilets. There’s nowhere on earth quite like the North of England. We’re tough (have you not seen Game of Thrones?), we have an infectious energy and we are unapologetic about it all; that’s what happens when the rest of the nation underestimates you. But, as North thankfully shows, our Northern attributes have created innovation and creative explosions that the whole world now connects with. It certainly looks like Open Eye is the King of the North right now: If you know, you know.
North: Identity, Photography, Fashion at Open Eye Gallery is on from now until 19th March.