The collection of the Archive currently consists of more than a thousand pieces, each catalogued using a special StyleShoots photography machine and tagged with labels detailing provenance and backstory, and is described by Esquire as “fast-growing and compiling dozens of narrative arcs”.
A lot of the pieces housed at the Westminster School of Media, Arts and Design in Harrow are said to have their personal as well as social and economic stories. Groves explained how he recently bought a tailored coat by the Lord John label from eBay and then discovered that the previous owner had bought it while he was a student at the University of Westminster himself.
Dr Danielle Sprecher, curator of the Archive, said: “You’ve got to catch all that social history, it’s not about just getting the right garment, it’s about knowing the history of it all.”
The Westminster Menswear Archive is intended primarily as a practical and hands-on inspiration for the students who will make up the next generation of designers.
Andrew Groves said: “You can’t tell the whole story of a garment from looking at a photo of it, you need to touch it and examine it.”
In the past three years, the online premium market for menswear has grown by 278 per cent according to retail analysts Edited, which is one of the reasons why the University of Westminster also launched the world’s first two-year Menswear MA degree last year. However, Ike and Andrew both agree that the word fashion is still connotated mostly with women’s clothing, which became evident even in the architects’ initial drawings of the Archive.
Ike Rust explained: “To show it was a space to study and create fashion, they’d incorporated illustrations of women in red dresses.”
Andrew Groves added: “It just shows you what the perception of fashion is. People hear the word and they still just think ‘womenswear’.”