Friday, 24 October 2014

'A Year At Clothworkers' Conference

On Thursday 23rd October, the V&A Museum held a one day conference to celebrate one year at the V&A's Clothworker's Centre for the Study and Conservation of Textiles and Fashion, located at Blythe House in West London. I have visited the Blythe House and the Clothworkers Centre on several occasions to view some of the amazing collection of knitwear and textiles, so I jumped at the chance to attend this conference to hear more about this fabulous resource. 

Detail of flag from the Fabric of India Exhibition, V&A Museum

Suzanne Smith, Clothworkers Centre Manager, gave us an excellent overview of the year at Clothworkers. There are over 100,000 objects in the collections. Over the last year there have been 2,700 visitors to the Clothworkers Centre. These visitors have viewed 7000 objects from the collection. Visitors are either individuals, groups or pre-arranged tours, with the majority being individuals who self select 6 to 10 items using the online collections database.  Suzanne emphasised that you don't need to be a specialist to visit: the Centre is open to all! 

Dries Van Noten and Dragon Robes
Oriole Cullen, Curator Modern Textiles and Fashion V & A and  Anna Jackson, Keeper Asian Department V & A described how several well known fashion designers have used the resources at the Clothworkers Centre to inspire their collections. It was fascinating to hear more about these collaborations. Dries Van Noton, took inspiration from the Dragon Robes, a woven tapestry panel and a Japanese hanging in the collections. High resolution images of the objects were digitally printed onto fabric, which was then abstracted into ensembles, The V&A subsequently acquired 4 of these ensembles from Dries Van Noton.

Dries Van Noton, V&A Museum

Dries Van Noton, V&A Museum

Dries Van Noton, V&A Museum
Other designers who have been inspired by the collections include Erdem, who also used the Clothworkers Centre for the fashion shoot.
Erdem pre-fall 2014 at the Clothworkers Centre
                The next three talks were a series of examples of the way the Clothworkers Centre has been used for in-depth research and, in the case of Angela Jensen, added to by research.

                The Fashion and Translation Project: engagements between theory, history, industry and objects
Sarah Cheang, Royal College of Art and Elizabeth Kramer, Northumbria University looked at the way fashion has developed and transferred between countries and continents over time. This was illustrated by some fascinating examples such as the Qipao and the 2014 Kimono Jacket trend.

The Wardrobe of Kenneth Tynan 
Ben Whyman, London College of Fashion aims to add to the biographical detail of Kenneth Tynan by studying the clothing he wore. Researching banal and everyday objects such as belts, ties and shoes can add immense detail to the life of the wearer.

Contemporary Moroccan Fashion 
Angela Jansen, London College of Fashion gave us an excellent overview of 14 years of research. There are very few items of Moroccan fashion in the V&A Collections. By firstly identifying previously unknown Moroccan designers and then re-looking at more well known names, such as Naima Bennis, Zina Guessons, Zhor Sebti and Tamy Tazi,  Angela Jansen was able to track down garments that they designed. Having persuaded the owners to donate the garments to the V&A, Angela Jansen has created a new resource that will be available to students and individuals to study at the Clothworkers Centre.

Indian Textiles Cataloguing Project 
Sonia Ashmore, Research Fellow, V & A, told the conference how the 10,000 items in the South and South East Asian Collection originally arrived at the South Kensington Museum from the Indian Museum (1879-80), previously owned by the East India Company. The detailed cataloguing process was carried out between 2012 and 2014, when three people catalogued 3040 textile objects.

Indian Textiles Exhibition Research
Rosemary Crill, Senior Curator Asian Department V & A , provided an exciting overview of the content that will be on show in the Fabric of India Exhibition that will be at the V&A Museum in 2015The Indian Textiles Cataloguing Project has helped with the selection of these items. Now I can't wait to see the actual items!

Items that will be on show in the V&A Exhibition, the Fabric of India, 2015

Items that will be on show in the V&A Exhibition, the Fabric of India, 2015
Items that will be on show in the V&A Exhibition, the Fabric of India, 2015

Grand Designs: Accessing Persian Carpets at the V&A 
Moya Carey, Curator Middle East, V & A told the conference how the Clothworkers Centre has provided the opportunity to view the collection of Persian carpets in natural light, in great detail and side by side with other examples. This has meant new discoveries and insights. The description of photographing the large carpets from above was fascinating.

Details of a small section of carpet at Clothworkers Centre

Daylight and x-ray vision!  The Pattern book series at Clothworkers
Susan North, Curator 17th & 18th Century Fashion V & A, described the process of working out how some of these historical garments were constructed. For more detail, see my earlier post on Susan North's V&A lunchtime lecture, The Secret Geomerty of Seventeenth Century Dress
The next book in this excellent series is 17th Century Men's Dress Patterns.

V&A Books 
London Couture 1923-1975
Edwina Ehrman, Curator of Textiles and Fashion, V&A described how this new publication will look at London as a centre for Men's and Women's fashion. Many of the key garments were studied in detail at the Clothworkers Centre and the importance of also being able to use the Art and Design Archive, also located at Blythe House, meant that the actual garments could be studied alongside press commentary and documentation.

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