Inside the Archive at Central Saint Martins

Earlier this month, our ADH members had the opportunity to visit the Museum and Study Collection at Central Saint Martins. The collection contains work produced by staff and students, both past and present, documenting Central Saint Martins’ (CSM) rich history. The collection also holds donated items for use in their teaching collections that provide inspiration and information of art, design and fashion histories. ADH members were shown a number of items by the collection’s curator, Anna Buruma.

The collection holds the work of textile designer, Joyce Clissold; whose examples of work we were shown. When she died in 1982, her estate gave everything that was in her workshop to institutional collections, and Central Saint Martins was one of the lucky recipients. We were shown examples of her printing blocks including the small designs on cotton reels that were used to make each of her printed fabrics unique. As well as one of her dye books, that was clearly well used in the workshop with almost every page splashed with dye. There were also garments with her printed designs, including a mustard coloured felted wool cloth jacket with an autumn leave/Huntsmen design and a 1930s jacket back piece with a floral leaf pattern on a gold and white brocade fabric. Another item Clissold item in the collection was a 1932-3 carrier bag for her shop ‘Footprints’. With documentation of Clissold’s printing methods, the garments she made and even the bagthe purchased items were taken home in, this portion of the archive is a wonderful resource for researching the textile designer.

Next up, were the notebooks, journals, drawings of Norah Waugh. Of course, many of the faces in the room lit up at the sound of the well-known name in costume construction and historical dress. The collection reveals Waugh’s passion and dedication to her subject with numerous entries showing her research and sketches of garments as well as drafts for her book. As a lecturer at CSM in historical costume, her work continues to be key to many theatre costume designers.

A piece that made the room gasp, was the collections prized possession. This was the Alexander McQueen Spring 2005 collection leather jacket. The jacket exemplifies McQueen’s design process of deciding where to place applique and embroidery detailing on the final design. It has paper ‘test prints’ and leather trims simply taped to the garment using clear tape as well as red sharpie drawn lines to indicate changes in the shape of the jacket and where the edging should be placed. As a former MA fashion student in the 1990s and an inspirational designer to many fashion students McQueen’s fashion is a high pointof the collection.

Overall, the pieces presented to the ADH members during the tour were truly inspiring. They provide a valuable source of inspiration for future research projects and are evidence of the importance of collections in dress history research.

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