Sam McKnight and Burberry capes

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This isn’t exactly a blog, more of a sharing of the photos I took when I visited the hairdresser Sam McKnight retrospective at Somerset House recently, and the Burberry Maker’s House exhibit in Soho.

Obviously I’m not a hairdresser but I knew that the show featured McKnight’s collaborations with designers, as well as fashion magazines and publications over the last 3 decades. I felt though that the show, whilst interesting and well put together was a little lacking in very much substance. Lots of photos and hair-pieces, part of McKnight’s travelling ‘salon’ kit (a massive number of brushes, rollers, driers, straighteners, hairspray and general hairdressing paraphernalia) The opening section where a number of work stations are set up allows the viewer to feel they are backstage at fashion shows during the build-up which is interesting. This moves through to a section featuring McKnight’s collaborations with Vivienne Westwood over the last 20 years. It’s a good excuse to display a number of her outfits from previous collections.

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Vivienne Westwood

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Then there are lots more photos, large and small, and Vogue magazine covers. Sam McKnight is well-known as Princess Diana’s hairdresser, it was he who first cut her hair very short and created the ‘wet-look’ style that divided the press and public opinion. He accompanied her on a number of Royal overseas tours and was instrumental in the ‘reinvention’ of her look after her divorce from Prince Charles. diana

The next section revolves around McNight’s collaboration with Karl Lagerfeld and Chanel.

The best bit of the show, for me, was the continuous showing of recent Chanel Haute Couture shows, being shown in their entirety. Each one runs for about 15 minutes and I watched 4!! So that was an hour spent watching exquisite dresses and suits on the runway-the hairstyles weren’t my particular focus though….

I don’t want to sound like I’m dissing the show and I’m really not because there was quite a bit that I enjoyed, and Sam McKnight is clearly a very nice bloke who’s very well-regarded in his field and influential in styling terms but it could just as easily have been a show about Westwood or Chanel.

The show is still running until March 12th if you want to go and I’ve shared the link above, or here

From Somerset House I took myself to the last day of Burberry Makers House which displayed their collaboration with the Henry Moore Foundation. I’d seen a number of people share images from it on Instagram so I wanted to see it for myself and I’m SO glad I made the effort to go.As I arrived there was the opportunity for a guided tour (it was a totally free-entry event anyway) which really enhanced my appreciation and understanding of what I was seeing. I couldn’t understand beforehand how a dead sculptor could be linked with a fashion house (albeit a long-established one) There were a number of Moore’s sculptures on display, as well as many of his tools, maquettes and sketches, most of which had never left Perry Green before. [If you’ve never been to Perry Green and you have the opportunity to visit I’d recommend going. It’s in a lovely rural spot and many of Moore’s most monumental sculptures are there in the settings that he intended for them, with the sheep still wandering happily between them keeping the grass down!]

The tour guide pointed out many of the inspirations and cross-pollination of ideas that Christopher Bailey created for the new season collection. I particularly enjoyed seeing the ideas boards and fabric samples. Ideas such as the elongated arms on the sculptures, the striped apron Henry Moore always wore in his studio, and the sheep that continue to wander around the site at Perry Green where Moore lived and worked for many many years, all found a place in the garments that were presented on the runway in the form of over-long sleeves and cuffs, blue-striped matelot T-shirts embellished with lace and beautiful asymmetric cable knitwear.

There were some wonderful ideas which any dressmaker could easily ‘interpret’ in her own way. I particularly liked the layering of stripes and sweatshirts, and evening dress-shirts with lovely details like pin tucks and bobbin lace, and delicate lace over-dresses. I’m hatching plans with a few ideas around these so watch this space.

The capes were the most extraordinary things! They weren’t capes in the useful, Sherlock Holmes sense, they were more like grand shoulder embellishments. There were 78 of them and there was so much variety between them all.  I’ll just share my photos here with the odd comment by way of explanation….img_1199img_1152img_1153

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GIANT cable knit
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Lace was pressed into clay to form a ‘relief’ pattern, and then wired together.

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beaded and sequined feathers
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More giant cable knit and ceramic designs.
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This one reminded me of an exquisite Edwardian evening cape.

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The cape was made up of multiple layers of silk georgette which was then hand embroidered with Japanese-style ‘sashiko’ stitching. As you can see, the edges have been left unfinished. It took over 400 HUNDRED hours to complete!
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Sea shells!

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Discs of fabric looking like scales or sequins.
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Eye-glasses!

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Trimmed feathers and tiny beading around the neck.

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Lace, tulle and feathers

So that’s it. One exhibition you can still go to if you’re quick and one that was somewhat ephemeral and all the more special because of it.

It would be lovely to hope that when the capes come back from their travels they could be displayed again somewhere for people to enjoy. It would be a real pity if such beautiful workmanship representing thousands of hours of work couldn’t be appreciated once more.

Meanwhile I’ll be having a go at my own take on some of the RTW collection (I don’t think the capes would to be that wearable on a day to day basis!)

Happy Sewing

Sue xx

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2 thoughts on “Sam McKnight and Burberry capes

  1. Thank you Susan for sharing your fab photos!

    As always, when I see your name pop up I am like a child at Christmas, excited to see what sewing delights are in store! 😃🐝

    Liked by 1 person

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