Homage To Moore

BY Anna Brady / Apr 2 2017 / 16:06 PM

Burberry’s February collection was infused with Creative Director Christopher Bailey’s love of sculptor Henry Moore. This may be a very British meeting of art and fashion but there are Moores hiding in plain sight on the streets of Tehran and Jeddah.

Homage To Moore

Henry Moore. Oval with Points. In situ in Jeddah. Courtesy of Myrna Ayad

Think of a very British fashion brand and Burberry will spring to mind. And a very British sculptor? Most probably Henry Moore. Both Moore and Burberry share that feeling of being rooted in British heritage, the earthy, ochre hues of its landscape, mixed with a bold avant-garde experimentation. Burberry’s Creative Director Christopher Bailey is known for his love affair with Moore. Back in 2012 his Spring ready-to-wear collection drew heavily on Moore inspired shapes, pattern and colour. These pop up repeatedly in his collections and never more so than in Burberry’s February 2017 collection, which says Bailey, started off by examining and meditating on Moore’s work.

Burberry’s February 2017 campaign. Courtesy of Burberry/Josh Olins 

“Henry Moore has long been an inspiration of mine, and with our February Collection we wanted to capture the way he played with form, texture and sculptural detail in a way that we haven’t before,’’ said Bailey, “As well as referencing his own personal style, and his iconic sculptures, the collection was also influenced by his creative process, which in so many ways is as inspiring as the works themselves.’’ The February collection is “an exploration of sculpture and silhouette, material and process”, his influences “articulated through form, texture and crafted detail as well as vivid prints referencing his designs from the archive in the Henry Moore Foundation.”

The collection launched in London last month with an exhibition in collaboration with the foundation titled Henry Moore: Inspiration & Process at Burberry’s Makers House, which showed the men’s and women’s collections alongside over 40 of Moore’s sculptures, monumental bronzes, working models, drawings and maquettes.

Trench coats, cable knit sweaters, shirts and asymmetric knitwear feature heavily in this very English collection. The eccentric cuts play on shape and scale, oversized sleeves and cut out details mirroring defining traits of Moore’s work. The androgynous silhouette and strong lapels of the tailored jackets sets off the Victorian feel of the delicate white lace dresses. There’s a concentration on the shoulder, with both woollen and embellished capes, echoing the strong shoulders Bailey sees in Moore’s sculpture. There is a strong feel of the sculptor’s own style in the studio too, with the emphasis on hardwearing materials and strong, capable proportions, such as wide-legged cropped work trousers. Textures have a rural rawness, with tweed and hand-looped rope work, echoing the swirling movement of Moore’s pen. The palette pared back to simple white, black, nude, indigo and red, interspersed with Moore prints. Drawings are printed onto fabric too, such as Reclining Figures 1937 and prints from his Pallas Heads series are repeated across silk dresses.

One of Christopher Bailey’s sketches for Burberry’s February 2017 collection 
We think of Moore as populating the rain swept hills of England, but what connection does he have to the Middle East? More than you’d expect; his sculptures exist in both Jeddah and Tehran, on public display since they were bought in the 1970s. Those in Tehran – Two–Pieces Reclining FigureThree–Pieces Reclining Figure and Oval with Points – have sat outside the Tehran Museum of Contemporary Art since they were acquired by Farah Diba Pahlavi, then the wife of the Shah of Iran, before the Iranian revolution in 1979.

Boots, Dhs3,850, Burberry

Jeddah has some 600 public sculptures, thanks to an acquisition programme started by Dr Mohamed Farsi, mayor of Jeddah in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, works by 20th century European artists, such as Alexander Calder and Joan Miro, sit alongside modern and contemporary artists from the Middle East such as Mustafa Senbal, Salah Abdulkarim and Maha Mullah. In 1975 Farsi wrote a letter to Moore about buying his work. “Both Jeddah and Mecca as well as any other town in Saudi Arabia lacks the existence of marble work in the streets and squares considering the fact that our Moslim Religion forbids the statues that resemble humans or animals. Therefore, your art which is different will be acceptable and will be the first in our towns.” 

Two years later, Farsi visited Moore in his studio in England, and purchased three sculptures: Two Large Forms’ (Three Piece Reclining Figure No .1), Large Spindle Piece and Oval with Points, at a total cost of US$675,000. A lot of money in the 1970s but it now looks a good investment; last year, Moore’s Reclining Figure: Festival sold for a record £24.7million (Dhs112.7) at Christie’s London 250th anniversary auction, Defining British Art. So, while Burberry’s February collection is as English as tea and crumpets after a bracing walk, it won’t be the first we’ve seen of Moore on the streets of the Middle East. He is here already, hiding in plain sight.