Preview: Identity, Photography, Fashion

An exhibition exploring northern identity through fashion and photography finds a cultural impact beyond the region’s boundaries

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A new exhibition at Liverpool’s Open Eye Gallery explores just what the north’s fashion signifies to the wider world. Co-curated by Lou Stoppard and Adam Murray, North: Identity, Photography, Fashion aims to examine the link between geographical space and cultural output. It showcases documentary photography, fashion editorials and video footage alongside clothing.

“I am passionate about curating fashion in a way that engages with a broad audience,” says Stoppard. “In the context of museums, fashion is shown as something fantastical, other-worldly. I wanted to do a show the opposite of that, one that touches people or sparks memories.”

Although London may be the centre of high fashion, Manchester-based academic Murray says: “Northern cities are the birthplace of unique style and culture, constantly providing new inspiration for designers and image makers. Fashion and style is about so much more than where the fashion industry is based.”

Stoppard says: “The most interesting style movements tend to be from far away from where fashion is happening – they’re linked to music culture or youth movements or even sport and politics.”

Work on display in Liverpool comes from, among many others, Paul Smith, Alice Hawkins and Turner Prize winners Jeremy Deller and Mark Leckey. There are original prints from photographer Glen Luchford’s 1989 Stone Roses shoot, a parka from Raf Simons’ 2003 collection (featuring a Peter Saville graphic originally designed for Manchester’s Factory Records), a pair of Adidas’s famous Haçienda trainers, plus work from emerging young designers John Alexander Skelton, from York, and the Liverpudlian Christopher Shannon.

It’s a fascinating, expansive selection and one chosen to help counter any northern stereotyping complaints. “I’ve been speaking to Jeremy Deller about this and we’ve discussed how clichés and stereotypes are often true,” says Stoppard. “I think the North has an especially interesting relationship with stereotyping as, in some ways, they’re seen as frustrating or unfair but in others certain cities and individuals trade off them.”

Setting this exhibition in Liverpool, during Open Eye Gallery’s 40th anniversary year, can be seen as a statement in itself. It has perhaps the strongest individual identity of all northern cities – along with an abundance of the aforementioned stereotypes.

Murray says: “The more time you spend in each city – Liverpool, Leeds, Manchester, Newcastle, etc – the more you realise each place does have its own distinct identity. But a friend of mine has a really nice way of describing Liverpool, and that’s as a city that faces away from the rest of England. And it definitely feels like a city that is confident with itself.”

North: Identity, Photography, Fashion is at the Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool, until 19 March

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