Why does fashion need Virginia Woolf? This is explained by Bring no clothes, the exhibition underway in the new spaces of the house museum in Lewes, Sussex

In 1916, at the height of the Great War, the Bloomsbury group took refuge in the country house of Vanessa Bell and Duncan Grant, in Charleston, in Sussex. The small estate with a magnificent garden is the new residence of the freest and most revolutionary thinkers of the time. Many of them are "total" artists: no art is excluded and the house in Charleston obviously becomes a riot of art applied to everyday life, in search of a way of life capable of silencing the suffocating Victorian mentality .

The house museum in Sussex and the new Charleston space in Lewes

Charleston today is a house museum, with a program of exhibitions, festivals and reviews. Nothing nostalgic, if anything an attempt to bring alive the Bloomsbury spirit and its tools of creative criticism.

At the beginning of September, a branch space, Charleston in Lewes, was inaugurated in the nearby town of Lewes, with a similar spirit.

The renovation of an old English building is beautiful, the small size is beautiful, the idea of allocating public resources to the survival of Bloomsbury thought is courageous.

Bring no clothes, please

The first Charleston in Lewes exhibition, which was a project already explored by the group during the Second World War, isBring no clothes, (until January 7), an investigation into fashion of the Bloomsbury groupand its dynamic relationship with the fashion industry. The story is a mix of contemporary fashion, historical works, objects, many of which are exhibited for the first time.

Charlie Porter: “A different light on the Bloomsbury lifestyle”

Curated by fashion critic Charlie Porter, it's a multi-layered experience, featuring catwalk fashion from Dior, Fendi, Burberry, Comme des Garçons, Erdem and S.S. Daley, personal objects belonging to members of the Bloomsbury group, including Virginia Woolf and Lady Ottoline Morrell, previously unpublished portraits of artists Duncan Grant and Vanessa Bell, as well as new commissions and interventions by contemporary stylists Jawara Alleyne and Ella Boucht.

Fashion and radical: a significant rebellion

A constant influence of the radical thought of the last century emerges in today's creativity. The need to return to exploring an idea of fashion and personal objects that wants to have nothing to do with the main stream and fast, unreflective and voracious consumption.

The members of Bloomsbury sought a significant rebellion to a traditional, obsolete mindset. An intellectual push that affects us closely in the attempt to imagine a world that will necessarily have to be different in the short term.

Rethinking the dynamics of fashion

Charlie Porter, curator of the exhibition, argues that: “The Bloomsbury group engaged with fashion in dynamic ways, from philosophical thought to radical clothing. Bring No Clothes uses clothing to shed new light on their lives, as well as providing insight into how we dress today. By mixing past and present, I hope the exhibition encourages visitors to reconsider their future relationship with fashion."

Simplicity: empty, make space, start again

The title of the exhibition, Bring no clothes, is a quote from aletter of invitation to Charleston from Virginia Woolf to T.S. Eliot in 1920: “Please do not bring clothes: we live in a state of utmost simplicity.”

It makes you smile to think that the group's "doing" in an all-encompassing, almost excessive way could be the consequence of a desire for maximum simplicity.

But the allusion was probably more about the desire to leave an obsolete present behind to make room for new pressing thoughts. Science, economics, sociology, art. Each intellectual tool contributed to making space, to emptying, to creating a new human landscape.

Is fashion capable of taking risks?

What remains of that moment of incredible fruitfulness is an attitude of awareness and love for risk. Something we feel the need of even today.

The Charleston exhibition in Lewes is all in all an invitation to look at niche experiences in a disenchanted but not cynical way.

High fashion needs Virginia Woolf and her friends in an attempt to send cultural messages useful to the present. Questionable revolutionary attempts by the fashion industry? Not if the ambition is to be a voice out of a chorus that struggles to find arguments convincing enough to be truly revolutionary.