Vivienne Westwood, Roksanda Ilincic and other contemporary designers create new pieces inspired by the First World War and its impact on the role of women and women’s fashion
Manchester Art Gallery
Friday 13 May 2016–Sunday 27 November 2016
One of the most radical changes at home during the war was the huge change in women’s lives and work. With the men away fighting, more than one million women went to work for the first time during the war years – in munitions factories and on the buses, driving ambulances and even ‘manning’ the London Underground. These new responsibilities gave women new freedoms – and they also led to a new look, as tight corsets and heavy skirts were replaced by more natural and fluid silhouettes. A century later, this era has inspired Fashion & Freedom, co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW: WW1 Centenary Art Commissions, an ambitious, multi-faceted exhibition that examines the fashion legacy of the First World War for the 21st century.
From the doyenne of British fashion, Vivienne Westwood, to Belgrade-born, London-based designer Roksanda Ilincic and rising star J JS Lee, leading female fashion designers are creating contemporary pieces inspired by the profound changes in women’s dress that occurred during the First World War. These exclusive designs are being presented in an exhibition alongside historic wartime selections drawn from Manchester Art Gallery’s renowned costume collection.
A series of specially commissioned original short films complement the garments on display, including films by directors from Nick Knight’s award-winning SHOWstudio, who pioneered fashion film online. Luke Snellin has written and directed first, which reimagines a young woman’s first day at work as a bus conductor, with uniforms designed by Manchester fashion label Private White V.C. The films will be shown in the Gallery and across digital screens in Manchester, as well as online.
Fashion & Freedom also showcases the next generation of fashion talent through contributions from students at five British fashion colleges, working to the First World War-influenced theme of Restriction and Release. The new designs, the films and the students’ contributions combine to bring a modern-day sensibility to the fashions of this landmark era in women’s history.
Creative Director: Darrell Vydelingum
Co-commissioned by 14-18 NOW and Manchester Art Gallery, supported by the British Fashion Council.
Image still from First by Luke Snellin, 2016