Northwick Park is home to the only publicly accessible menswear archive in the world. Painstakingly assembled by the University of Westminster, the archive contains a priceless hoard of designer fashion, ready-to-wear. workwear, uniforms, and historic clothing.
The Archive collects, studies, conserves and presents significant works of technical menswear to connect people to creativity, knowledge and ideas. It was founded to establish and maintain a collection of garments and related artefacts to encourage and develop the study of menswear design from a technical and functional point of view; to advance the general knowledge of menswear as a design discipline, and to be used as a resource tool to inform contemporary menswear design.
This is achieves with some success. While the archive is a useful tool for students on the Universities fashion courses, and to students from around the world, it is a godsend for clothing designers, who regularly visit seeking inspiration for their next collections. Top fashion designers regularly hop off the Metropolitan Line at Northwick Park and take the short walk to the impressive archive.
The Westminster Menswear Archive has examples of some of the most important and exciting menswear garments covering the last 100 years. The archive includes garments from Alexander McQueen, Craig Green, Stone Island, Ralph Lauren, Tommy Nutter, Liam Hodges, Carol Christian Poell, C.P. Company, Jean Paul Gaultier, Calvin Klein, Meadham Kirchhoff, Kim Jones, Aitor Throup, Vivienne Westwood, Mr Fish, Irvine Sellars, Umbro, MA.Strum, adidas, Nanamica, Belstaff, Barbour, Burberry, Maison Margiela, Jeremy Scott, Vexed Generation, Aquascutum, Levis, Jeremy Scott, Berghaus, Penfield, Griffin, and Comme Des Garcons.
Additionally, the archive includes an extensive range of utilitarian and uniform garments from the Army, Police, US Marines, GPO, Coldstream Guards, the French fire service and others – even a Korean beekeeper’s outfit.
Professor Andrew Groves, of Westminster University, is rightly proud of the archive. He told us: “We help designers from companies like Calvin Klein, Adidas, and Margiela find inspiration for their future designs. For some of them we’re a useful record of what they’ve produced, they don’t all have their own private archives.
“This is a great asset for West London’s creative community. It’s open to the public, so anyone in design can come and find some inspiration in the clothing we have here. Architects, engineers – they can learn from the fabrics and technical details just as much as clothing designers and manufacturers”.
The Archive plans an exhibition – “Invisible Men” – at their Marylebone campus in autumn 2019. “It’s our first exhibition,” says Prof Groves. “It will showcase the full 120-year span of our collection through over 170 garments and will explore how men have used clothing as a means of keeping their identities hidden and unscrutinised.”
Exhibition dates 25 October – 24 November 2019
Exhibition venue: Ambika P3, University of Westminster, Marylebone, London NW1 5LS
Invisible Men: An anthology from the Westminster Menswear Archive, is the first major exhibition from the Westminster Menswear Archive and will be the largest exhibition devoted to menswear to have been shown in the UK. It covers the last 120 years of predominately British menswear through the display of over 170 garments, including examples of uniforms, workwear, and designer ensembles.
Drawing exclusively from the Westminster Menswear Archive, this exhibition explores the. intrinsic design language of menswear which reiterates archetypal garments intended for specific functional, technical or military use. It illustrates how designers have disrupted these conventions through minimal, yet significant modifications to produce outcomes that both replicate and subvert their source material.
Through this approach, the language of menswear has developed an almost fetishistic appreciation of the working man in all his heroic iterations, referencing the clothing of seafarers, soldiers, athletes, firefighters, road workers, explorers, and scientists.
This design strategy has, for the most part, allowed men and what they wear to avoid scrutiny: these garments have remained invisible within fashion exhibitions in favour of presenting menswear as the story of the dandy or the peacock male.
This exhibition aims to shine a light on these invisible men.