The most extensive exhibition devoted to menswear to be staged in the UK, Invisible Men will set out to celebrate 120 years of British fashion with a collection running to over 170 garments.
The exhibition, which has been drawn exclusively from the Westminster Menswear Archive, includes many garments which have never been displayed in public before.
Arranged into 12 sections, the show will explore the design language and conventions of men’s fashion as well as examining how designers in different eras have sought to disrupt those conventions.
The show will focus especially on what the curators describe as the “almost fetishic appreciation of the working man” which has come to dominate British menswear. This obsessive appreciation has, runs the argument, “allowed men and what they wear to avoid scrutiny”, therefore allowing the history of men’s fashion to be presented in the most part “as the story of the dandy and the peacock male”.
Seeking to redress the balance, the new exhibition will aim to shine a light on these previously overlooked and uncelebrated norms.
Exhibition curator Professor Andrew Groves had this to say about Invisible Men: “both in museums of the decorative arts or dedicated fashion museums, menswear is significantly underrepresented. Despite the explosion in fashion exhibitions in recent years, menswear is still marginalised or excluded from the history of dress. Its inclusion often framed in the well-worn tropes of the dandy or peacock”.
Life long student of fashion Groves is the director of the BA course in Fashion Design at the University of Westminster. Before that, the professor was himself a fashion designer, working under the label name Jimmy Jumble.
Groves began the Westminster Menswear Archive as a teaching resource in 2016, after becoming frustrated by the lack of access that his students had to “historically important menswear”. Since setting up the resouce, in the space of only three years, the archive has amassed over 1700 garments, with more flooding in all the time. The collection receives financially support from the Quintin Hogg Trust.
“We are beginning now to tell the untold story of menswear” says Grove of the archive. “I’m incredibly excited that this exhibition will allow the public to see highlights from the collection, most of which have never been on public display before. I am also hopeful that it will lead to other institutions and museums to address the history of menswear in a more meaningful way” he adds.
Grove’s co-curator Dr Danielle Sprecher had this to say about the new show: “this exhibition showcases the strength and diversity of the Westminster Menswear Archive collection and its significance as an educational and research resource. The range of pieces that we have means, for example, that we can display an original USAF 1950’s flight jacket alongside a variety of different designer interpretations. By giving our students the opportunity to study original garments, the collection feeds their creativity and design knowledge.”
Highlights of the exhibition will include a section on the early work of Alexander McQueen, a section on the C.P. Company Urban Protection range, and a range of “source garments” from such institutions as the British Army, the Royal Air Force and the General Post Office.
Invisible Men features the following designers:
A Cold Wall*, Adidas, Aitor Throup, Alexander McQueen, Austin Reed , Belstaff, Bernhard Willhelm , Blades, BodyMap, Burberry, Burton, C.P. Company, Calvin Klein, Carol Christian Poell, Christian Dior, Comme Des Garcons, Craig Green, Dege & Skinner, Gieves, H&M, Harrods, Helmut Lang, Irvine Sellars, Issey Miyake, Jean-Paul Gaultier, Jeremy Scott, John Stephen, Junior Gaultier, Junya Watanabe, Left Hand, Levi’s, Lewis Leathers, Liam Hodges, Mackintosh, Martin Margiela, Massimo Osti, Meadham Kirchhoff, Michiko Koshino, Mr Fish, Nigel Cabourn, Palace, Paul Smith, Peter Saville, Prada, Sibling, Stella McCartney, Stone Island, Umbro, Undercover, Vexed Generation, Vivienne Westwood , Vollebak, Zegna Sport.
Invisible Men will open on the 25th of October 2019. The exhibition will continue until the 24th of November 2019.
More information about the event can be found here.
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