bringing british back


As some fashions and trends are adopted, others are forgotten altogether, becoming distant memories that are often best left alone. Attitudes can also fall out of favour, and with the nation descending further into political chaos, it seems that patriotism has become something of a taboo.

After all, what's so fantastic about declaring your love for a nation that's been painted as xenophobic, uncooperative and inward looking as a result of right-wing rhetoric and the dire Brexit situation. With this in mind, you won't be surprised to hear that more and more Brits are shying away from their heritage out of embarrassment and shame, as if Britishness was an outfit that you wore a couple of years ago, but wouldn't be seen dead in now. 

Christopher Bailey's carefully selected monochrome and colour portraits, works by world renowned social and documentary photographers, provide answers to this tricky situation and analyse 'British life, in all its nuances, both exceptional and mundane, beautiful and harsh’.

Taking a different perspective, perhaps the desire to create a diverse, culturally rich and constantly evolving nation might be your perception of what Britishness embodies, as implied by Charlie Phillips, whose work captured black British culture, racial tensions and the nation’s ongoing ‘path to change’.

Although Britishness has a lot to do with tradition, it’s not all about tea, wit or even polished politeness. Instead, by taking the varied perspectives of artists, observers and documenters, it’s plain to see that Britishness is an inclusive, driven and creative spirit that’s building a multi-racial, multi-sexual and multi-religious society. 

This also raises the question, what is being done and who's putting the case forward for patriotism? Well, it turns out that there are a few attempting to win us over, particularly those from the fashion industry.

Aside from assembling the exhibition, Christopher Bailey used his position at the helm of Burberry to capture what he sees as 'a very British way of life and way of dressing’ - a celebration of British style. The brand's Winter 2017/18 ready-to-wear collection references our nation's traditional industries, from our fishermen with chunky Aran-knit jumpers, to our incomparable tailors, with tailcoats, sartorial woollen jackets and camel hair Chesterfield coats. Some of Blighty's most iconic subcultures also stood as sources of inspiration for Bailey, with oversized Harrington jackets alluding to the Mods and Skinheads of the 60s, wide-legged and high-waisted trousers referencing Motown-loving Soulies, whilst deep green tartan trousers and bright red Stewart Royal ponchos conjure images of anarchic punks and bands such as the iconic Sex Pistols.

Away from the design studio, others are also endeavouring to bring Britain to the forefront of fashion. Edward Enninful, the head of British Vogue dedicated his inaugural edition of the ‘fashion bible’ to Britain: “I was determined that my first issue of Vogue would be in celebration of Britain”, a showcase of British talent.  

With such steps being taken to celebrate our nation and its cultural roots, there's no justifiable reason to turn away from our wondrously bizarre and complex identity. Now is the time to embrace it fully and bring Britain back into fashion.

author: george elliot