Clothes can talk! They can tell us which era they are from, who wore them, the available technology at the time, the vibe of the age, etc. Clothes are not only a reflection of a person’s persona but also of the age it was crafted in. If one popular clothing item from each year is put in a row, one can easily see the evolution of style, brand, and fashion. Every brand dreams of creating a rich, unique legacy. Till a few years back, there was no way to visually see this intriguing dialogue between the past, present, and the future through clothes.
Archiving fashion is also about stepping away from the chaotic race and cashing in on the brand’s unique history. The merchandise is carefully stored in the climate-controlled display cases. The idea of visually creating a brand story has taken the fancy of the fashion industry and big brands are building museums to exhibit and house their collections.
Yves Saint Laurent will open two museums in Paris and Marrakech in 2017 to celebrate the work of its founder Yves Saint Laurent. The Gucci Museum opened in Florence in 2011. The Fashion and Textile Museum in London recently housed Missoni archive. These museums help in making telling a story behind their brand. These vintage pieces are carefully restored and housed. Dior Archives are maintained under strict museum guidelines, i.e. humidity control, no daylight, controlled temperature of 18-20 degrees Celsius.
Fashion archiving, digital or offline, is about experiencing a time in history when everything was exclusive with intricate details. It takes on the approach of being inspirational to the future generation with its power to provide perception and reinterpretation of a vintage piece representing an era. The dungaree pieces made by Levi’s, Filson and Carhartt from 1922 has inspired its comeback in 2015.
Yves Saint Laurent was the first design house to build their own in-house archive of about 3,500 pieces.
Who Is A Fashion Archivist?
A fashion archivist is a curator and conservator of fashion clothing and accessories. Fashion merchandise is stored using museum techniques with each fashion piece documented, photographed, and organized. They determine the value of the vintage piece, its historical context, and its social relevance before deciding to add it to the collection.
Archivists keep records that have enduring value as reliable memories of the past, and they help people find and understand the information they need in those records.
Why Big Brands Need Fashion Archiving?
An archive is an important part of a brand not only from a brand’s history perspective but also as a source of inspiration for the future collection. Ritu Kumar created a line known as ‘The Revivalist’ to resurrect traditional Indian crafts into mainstream fashion. The inspiration for this line was drawn from ancient designs and traditional clothing. These clothes have helped shaped national identities of many cultures. In India, Eka Archiving Services has done tremendous work in archiving the fashion trends in contemporary India.
One could also learn a lot about key turning points in company’s history. Stuart Vevers fondly remembers spending time in their in-house archive to understand company’s history and get inspiration for future designs. The in-house archive showed him the point in time when the brand introduced more colours under the designer Bonnie Cashin. Many established brands have to bid or even persuade their loyal customers to part ways with their item in order for them to complete their collection. It is ideal for brands to start putting together their piece of history from day one. Ralph Rucci, famously known for its luxury brand called Chado Ralph Rucci, started archiving since the 1980s. This helped him create a visible history of his work.
Wendell Rodricks, a renowned Indian designer, single-handedly revived the traditional saree of Goa called Kunbi saree made by Kunbi tribe. He has experience in restoring fragile heritage textile and is eager to convert his 450-year-old house in Goa into a heritage textiles museum.
Creating A Digital Archive
History plays a very important part in story-telling, something that all brands are striving to achieve. A fashion item without its history to make it special doesn’t hold meaning.
A digital archive reminds the people of happy and positive memories related to the item. Brands need to curate their history of fashion in a more engaging manner by providing a tangible and easily navigable platform.
One of the tools to help people connect with the brand’s history is through visual stories. The visual stories help in mass education about a brand by evoking memories. It also shows the relevance of drawing from history for future designs.
Google’s virtual exhibition called “We Wear Culture” has myriad of the material collection showing key fashion movements, crafts of textiles, and icons of the fashion world.
Who Is An Ideal Candidate?
An ideal candidate is a person who has an educational background in fashion studies, archiving, and sound knowledge of the history of fashion.
The candidate is required to:
- Authenticate, evaluate, and catalog the collection’s items.
- Research and document the historical context.
- Identify the right value of the pieces.
- Cost-effectively acquire new pieces
- Preserve vintage pieces by employing archival tools and museum quality techniques.
Fashion archiving is a recently accepted field, thus there are very few known fashion archivists in India. The market is open and screaming for someone to preserve a piece of Indian history and culture.