Burberry celebrates Leeds as A City Without Seams with The Gift of bespoke fabric woven at the Keighley mill
Created on jacquard looms at the Burberry Mill in Keighley, Burberry partnered with British and international artist Keith Khan to create a series of beautiful bespoke textile artworks to celebrate the 33 distinctive and diverse wards of Leeds.
Khan designed 33 special motifs, inspired by the landscape, history and communities of Leeds, as part of the year-long festival of culture LEEDS 2023, and each piece of cloth will be gifted to each ward for public display.
Burberry has also created and donated a bespoke jacquard fabric which combines all 33 motifs into one. This striking cloth was shared with local designers, makers and Leeds Arts University students to create a range of garments, which they did, from kimonos and suits to capes and dashikis.
The designs were shown this month at Leeds Corn Exchange in an exhibition called A City Without Seams, where they could be tried on by members of the public. They are modelled here in these photographs by representatives of the various wards from across the city and its environs.
There is a kimono by Masato Jones, dashikis from Ike Choice Couture, three-piece suits by Brightbart tailors, a kurta by MK Noor, a cape by student Clara Dou and a flat cap by milliner Allison Turton. Each shows how Leeds’s textile industry - and design talent - are still present and palpable to this day.
Next month, the cloths will be given to their neighbourhood wards for display in a local venue. “It was such an honour to have these pieces woven on the Burberry jacquard looms, with the incredible support and professionalism of the Burberry team,” said Keith Khan, who began his career designing carnival costumes in Trinidad and the UK, and now creates in the fields of performance, film, drawing, textiles and digital art.
Khan showcases his layered identities – as a Muslim with Indo-Caribbean heritage who was raised in London – in highly personal projects and recently presented a solo exhibition at the prestigious Nature Morte Gallery in Delhi.
A City Without Seams is the culmination of months of research and exploration by Khan, who visited the wards to learn about their people, communities and history with the My LEEDS Neighbourhood Hosts.
“The designs were complex, but the result is a series of fine textiles. It is only with these textiles that we see the geographic size of the wards reflected, and they have also been worn, touched and used with relevance in every single one of the wards.
“We cannot underestimate the importance of a gift for perpetuity to be displayed in every ward from an outstanding luxury brand with a base in Leeds. It is amazing to see the artworks both in their digital and animated form, and as a physical textile.’
Burberry has a large business services office in Leeds and a proud history of producing cloth and clothing in West Yorkshire, and the company’s history, including that in Yorkshire, was celebrated earlier this year with the publication of a book called simply Burberry.
The Burberry Mill in Keighley began making fabric exclusively for Burberry in 2010 and in 2012, ownership was transferred solely to Burberry Ltd. It is now the home of Burberry gabardine, the fabric invented by founder Thomas Burberry in 1879. Burberry makes its iconic Heritage trench coats in Castleford.
Earlier this month, Burberry showed its spring/summer 2024 collection at London Fashion Week, choosing as its venue a marquee at a Highbury churchyard, emblazoned in a brand print, with guests including Kylie Minogue, Jodie Comer and Jason Statham.
It was the first full collection from chief creative director Daniel Lee, who was born in Bradford and the show was live-streamed on the Burberry website, so that everyone who loves the brand was able to watch, not just A-listers.
Rob Blomfield, vice president of Burberry’s Business Services in Leeds, said of The City Without Seams project: “It has been such a privilege to be a part of LEEDS 2023 and to celebrate not only our connection to the region, but also the rich industrial heritage of Yorkshire through the work of our incredible team at the Burberry Mill.
“We hope that the textile artworks we’ve created with Keith Khan will not only be cherished by our generation, but also passed down and beloved as a symbol of the community by many generations to come.”
LEEDS 2023 is a programme celebrating the city’s identity locally, nationally and internationally – creating a lasting legacy of economic and social impact, run by the Leeds Culture Trust, an independent charity set up in 2019 by Leeds City Council. For more information and to see all the morifs and garments, see leeds2023.co.uk/the-gift and leeds2023.co.uk/whats-on/a-city-without-seams
Kully Thiarai, creative director and CEO of LEEDS 2023,said: “We are hugely grateful to Burberry for its work on this project and the ongoing support for our year of culture. To work with a global luxury brand, with a strong history and heritage in West Yorkshire, has been an absolute delight.
"Burberry has been the perfect partner to bring to life the textile artworks that Keith has created for each of the 33 wards of Leeds. And I am so thrilled that now the people of Leeds have a bespoke artistic design unique to their ward, crafted by a world-renowned company.”
The designers and brands taking part in making the garments using the Burberry all-motif cloth were: Ike Choice Couture m; MK Noor Collections; Brightbart Tailors; Masato Jones; Alison Turton, milliner; Nicole Colbert, costume maker; and Clara Dou, Leeds Arts University Fashion student and designer.