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The Missing Thread: Untold Stories of Black British Fashion at Somerset House REVIEW

To enter the exhibition, you walk through a playhouse made of measuring tape in the colours of the Jamaican flag. It sets the tone for this immersive, thought-provoking and ultimately upbeat and inspiring look at Black British fashion from the 1970s to the present day.

Laid out thematically (Home, Tailoring, Performance and Nightlife), the first room includes an installation of suitcases, arranged to form the side of a house, photographs of racist slogans and a wall of black and white press cuttings from the 80s, screaming hatred and unrest.

From this context, the creative self-expression that follows is anti-establishment, celebratory and hugely powerful. It is brilliantly curated with a mix of sculptures, fabrics, paintings, photos, installations, videos and music. Some are period pieces, others new works that have been specially commissioned for the exhibition.

Understand the cultural significance of sharp tailoring and then watch an animated video of Ozwald Boateng being appointed Creative Director at Givenchy. Sit in a Caribbean-inspired front room and listen to a specially curated playlist. Walk into a neon Nail Salon and immerse yourself in the sounds of the dance floor. A room dedicated to the clothes of British designer Joe Casely-Hayford (who died in 2019) is the perfect ending.

It may not be designed for families per se, but it is urban, cool and bursting with life -- a total joy. Go!

The Missing Thread: Untold Stories of Black British Fashion Somerset House, 21 Sep–7 Jan (closed Mons). Tickets: £12.50 adults, £9.50 concessions, U25s £5, U5s free.

Emily Turner, 16 October 2023


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