Ben Sherman x Henry Holland does sharp-yet-street Northern Soul chic
Even before a model had hit the catwalk, London’s most read newspaper, The Evening Standard, had billed the Ben Sherman collaboration with Henry Holland as the show of the capital’s menswear season.
The first of two planned capsule collections, it was in part homage to the glories of Northern Soul, something rather close to this UK brand’s roots.
Presented in a 100-meter-long gallery under brick arches inside Somerset House along the Thames, the show had a fabulous soul soundtrack featuring tracks like “I Really Love You” by the delightfully obscure The Tomangoes. To this danced a dozen expert practitioners of Northern Soul - boogying, twisting and pirouetting with strict abandon before the actual models appeared. Both chorus and cast were handpicked by Holland and Ben Sherman’s creative director Mark Williams.
“Northern Soul is very close to the heart of Ben Sherman, though we did not want to just hark back to the past. We took a 70s kitsch twist with the prints and mixed in contemporary street attitudes,” explained Williams, who hails from the southern county of Kent.
The show featured 29 looks, ranging from short Harrington jackets – a favored style of Steve McQueen – to striped track pants, the famed fishtail parkas and some very natty Mod suits. Plus, the duo inject lots of Holland’s favored graphics: notably an I Night Owl Soul T-shirt where the owl was an embroidered bird, in reference to the all-night parties of this dance craze in famed haunts like the Twisted Wheel and the Wigan Casino.
The show came one month after Holland was nominated by the British Fashion Council for Best Emerging Menswear Designer. The brand’s tagline is Ben Sherman 1963 Heart of Soul. That references its earthy roots in the Northern Soul dance club movement where young English kids grooved to American soul classics.
“I love twisting iconic English brands. Which is what Ben Sherman will always be,” said Holland backstage. North of England-born Holland, who is noted for his broad Northern accent, has long been a particularly popular figure on the London scene. Ever since he first grabbed attention over a decade ago with his message tops, notably “I’ll Tell You Who’s Boss, Kate Moss!”
The show is the latest example of the new, more coherent direction Ben Sherman had taken since its acquisition by American fashion investment vehicle Marquee, which has sensibly re-centered Ben Sherman on its UK DNA, embracing the past even as it reinvents it.
Guests were also treated to a black and white photo exhibition of great Northern Soul dance clubs and images of all-nighters in places like the phenomenally opulent Blackpool Tower Ballroom.
“I was born in Ramsbottom, near Manchester, though my old man worked in Wigan which is the beating heart of Northern Soul. He used to dance himself, though, seeing as he was a solicitor probably not all night on speed, like a lot of the fans!” cracked the ever-ebullient Holland.
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