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The Missing Thread: Untold Stories of Black British Fashion

Start Date 21 September 2023
End Date 07 January 2024
Venue Somerset House
Location London, U.K.
Curator Black Oriented Legacy Development Agency (BOLD)
A collection of clothes designed by Joe Casely-Hayford stand on a white curved plinth.
A gold metallic suic is hung in a white wooden display frame. In the background is a blue-lit gallery; above the doorframe is a T-shirt emblazoned with the phrase 'I AM A MAN'.
View of a temporarily installed nail shop with a neon 'Open Nails' sign featuring a hand holding a rose. Inside are two people looking at photographs of a model.

This autumn, Somerset House explores the stories of Black British fashion in a major new exhibition, The Missing Thread, curated by the Black Oriented Legacy Development Agency (BOLD). Spanning from the 1970s to the present day, The Missing Thread charts the shifting landscape of Black British culture and the unique contribution it has made to Britain’s rich design history.

The exhibition will examine how the cultural, counter-cultural, political and socio-economic backdrop of the 20th and 21st centuries have shaped the identity of Black style and in turn mainstream fashion culture. Extending far beyond the realm of the catwalk, the exhibition spotlights and contextualises the profound impact of Black creativity through music, photography, art and design.

Black creativity has had a profound influence on British culture and continues to be referenced to great effect, often without acknowledgement. The exhibition seeks to redress this, celebrating the unique visions and impact of an often unseen generation of trailblazing Black creatives who were denied access to the fashion industry, or who despite achieving great success, have had their contributions misrepresented or excluded from the story of British fashion.

The exhibition will tell the story of Black creativity through four distinct themes – home, tailoring, performance and nightlife – each referencing the spaces which inspired and allowed the culture of Black British fashion and design to develop on its own terms. Rather than approaching fashion as an artform created in isolation, the Black contribution to British fashion culture will be set within a broader socio-political context, placing garments alongside artworks, cultural artefacts, music, memorabilia, videos and installations. The Missing Thread will also spotlight the genius of one of Britian’s most influential Black fashion designers, the late Joe Casely-Hayford, presenting the designer’s archive in an exhibition format for the first time in the UK. Finally, a series of original commissions by contemporary Black designers, including Nicholas DaleyBianca Saunders, Martine Rose and Saul Nash, will celebrate the generational lineage of Black creative excellence in British fashion.