Tuesday, 5 July 2016

english country houses and fashion

Gucci's Resort 2017 campaign is being shot at Chatsworth House in Derbyshire. The 17th century house belongs to the Duke of Devonshire and it is open to the public, who come to admire its opulent architecture and beautiful gardens. Like many English country houses, its events are usually in the realm of afternoon teas and family days out. This seems a far cry from the glamorous world of high fashion. So why does a stylish Italian brand like Gucci want to shoot its new campaign there?

Dog walking at Knole (photo by Antonio)

The collection being featured in the campaign was shown at Westminster Abbey, another place that is distinctively English. Chatsworth is an obvious progression from this and therefore not as polarised from the fashion industry as it first appears. Artists have always been inspired by country houses and Alessandro Michele is no different. 

Country houses are luxurious and artistic symbols of status, much like designer clothes. They also have the advantage of being surrounded by acres of land, inspiring references to the natural world and all that it represents. The show at Westminster opened with the sound of birdsong. Poets, painters and novelists have all been inspired by country houses whether they live in them, work there or just visit. They are settings for romance and adventure. Thinking of them as stodgy places that your parents dragged you to for days out when you were younger and pensioners go for tea and cake might be pretty apt in the 21st century, but there is much more to them than that. Perhaps Gucci has the power to bring National Trust houses back into fashion. 

Westminster Abbey itself was the starting point for Gucci's Resort 2017 collection. For those who have visited the Abbey, you will be able to visualise the breathtaking architecture and know its rich cultural history. Michele did not design the collection as conventionally British nor did he make it an ode to the royal family and the aristocracy, but instead the collection was informed by youth culture. 

Gucci Resort 2017 at Westminster Abbey (via Vogue Runway)

Country houses do not always have to represent a dying aristocracy. Whilst they remind us of the shocking class divides in 17th and 18th century Britain, from a creative perspective they are much more than that. Michele's take on English heritage is refreshing. He did not send wannabe aristocrats down the runway, but young punks and grunge kids. The looks that were reminiscent of royalty were frivolously over the top, with overflowing frills and heavy jewellery, like teenagers playing dress up in their mother's clothes. There has always been an element of make believe fantasy that appeals to visitors of expensive country houses. It would be much less fun if you didn't imagine living there as you walk around the lavishly decorated rooms. 

I have always been interested in country houses from an historical perspective. There are so many near me that I have grown up going to them. As I have got older I have learned to appreciate their cultural significance. I recently got a part-time job at a house near me and I can't wait to be working in that environment. Knole House, where the photos in the post were taken, was an inspiration for Virginia Woolf's Orlando. Beatles' videos were also filmed there. Chatsworth is not far from where I study in Sheffield and I am definitely going to try and take a day trip there next year. 

Fashion will continue to be a fast paced and global industry, but Michele is bringing Gucci back to authentic creativity. English country houses may not have the exotic appeal of Italian palazzos, but inspiration can be drawn from every detail. Architecture has always had strong links with fashion. The double C logo for Chanel was inspired by a pattern in the convent that Coco Chanel was raised in. Louis Vuitton's futuristic Resort 2017 collection was informed by its setting at the Contemporary Art Museum in Brazil. Both architecture and fashion are art forms that create something useful and they will continue to influence and inspire each other. 

1 comment:

  1. I am SO SO SO in love with those photos ahh help me! <3 What you wrote about the context of fashion and architecture is true AND inspiring, if I was a fashion designer I would shoot all my campaigns in typical english locations because I am just in love with that country.



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