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The Missing Thread: Untold Stories Of Black British Fashion – Somerset House, UK

21 Sep — 7 Jan 2024

This autumn, Somerset House explores the stories of Black British fashion in a major new exhibition, The Missing Thread, curated by the Black Orientated Legacy Development Agency (BOLD). Spanning from the 1970s to the present day, The Missing Thread charts the shifting landscape of Black British culture and the unique contribution it has made to Britain’s rich design history.

The exhibition will examine how the cultural, counter-cultural, political and socio-economic backdrop of the 20th and 21st centuries have shaped the identity of Black style and in turn mainstream fashion culture. Extending far beyond the realm of the catwalk, the exhibition spotlights and contextualises the profound impact of Black creativity through music, photography, art and design.

Black creativity has had a profound influence on British culture and continues to be referenced to great effect, often without acknowledgement. The exhibition seeks to redress this, celebrating the unique visions and impact of an often unseen generation of trailblazing Black creatives who were denied access to the fashion industry, or who despite achieving great success, have had their contributions misrepresented or excluded from the story of British fashion.

The exhibition will tell the story of Black creativity through four distinct themes – home, tailoring, performance and nightlife – each referencing the spaces which inspired and allowed the culture of Black British fashion and design to develop on its own terms. Rather than approaching fashion as an artform created in isolation, the Black contribution to British fashion culture will be set within a broader socio-political context, placing garments alongside artworks, cultural artefacts, music, memorabilia, videos and installations. The Missing Thread will also spotlight the genius of one of Britian’s most influential Black fashion designers, the late Joe Casely-Hayford, presenting the designer’s archive in an exhibition format for the first time in the UK. Finally, a series of original commissions by contemporary Black designers, including Nicholas DaleyBianca Saunders and Saul Nash, will celebrate the generational lineage of Black creative excellence in British fashion.

Full events and digital programme to be announced.

The Black Orientated Legacy Development Agency (BOLD) is a creative, design development agency working to forge structural and institutional change across the fashion industry and beyond. The agency is the brainchild of Harris ElliottAndrew Ibi and Jason Jules.

Harris Elliott is an international interdisciplinary visual artist and Senior MA Lecturer in Fashion at the Royal College of Art, specialising in identity and culture.

Andrew Ibi is a designer, artist, DJ and educator. He is the Creative Director of E.Macbean, London, currently the programme leader for the BA Fashion: Design & Communication course at Liverpool John Moores University and Visiting Professor at Middlesex University.

Jason Jules is a multi-disciplinary creative interested in semiotics, culture and style. Co-founder of the legendary Watch-Men Agency, he is known for his collaborative fashion project Garmsville and as author of the 2021 best-selling book, Black Ivy – A Revolt In Style.

Somerset House is delighted to be working with Morgan Stanley across our cultural programme, with a partnership which encompasses a range of exhibitions, programmes and social impact initiatives.

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