Menswear has a long history of utilising garment archives as a research method to inform the creation of new design outcomes, with Massimo Osti, an Italian designer, widely credited as the primary proponent of this approach. He made extensive use of his garment archive in Bologna during the 1970s and 1980s, resulting in numerous innovations in menswear that we now take for granted. His method of drawing inspiration from existing garments has become embedded in the processes of most fashion houses and designer brands. As a result, this method of referencing design archetypes necessitates access to previous iterations of clothing-objects to interrogate, investigate, and create new transformative outcomes.
The Westminster Menswear Archive was established in 2016, allowing the replication of this process within the academy, enabling researchers, students, and designers in industry to access and use the collection for garment-based research. It was founded to assemble a collection of artefacts to develop the technical and functional study of menswear design, raise general awareness of menswear as a design discipline, and serve as a resource tool to inform contemporary practice.
With garment-based research being a critical component of the fashion industry's research and development process, it has become essential in the University of Westminster's pedagogic practice, with students increasingly using archival garment research to expand their knowledge of the materiality of fashion and enable them to generate new ideas and prototypes for their design development.
Using examples from the collection, this paper examines how the archive has inspired a fundamentally different approach to pedagogical practice for students, replicating contemporary industry methods while also reflecting on how industry engagement with the archive has influenced the archives collection policy.