Unlike the traditional collections of dress held within museums, the specific user-led collection development of the WMA is unique and led to the creation of a new approach to its taxonomy. Groves has proposed a parity of objects, rejecting a hierarchy of design. By combining workwear, uniforms and designer garments, the research challenges the orthodoxy of dress collections and exhibitions. The approach has enabled the team to develop new knowledge of existing historical menswear objects and to generate an understanding of their transformative role in the creation of new design-led outcomes. The widespread but little-understood fashion industry practice of creating symbiotic correlations between “designer” objects, their military counterparts and industrial artefacts can then be critically assessed.
This period of research allowed Groves to develop the thesis that underpinned the exhibition Invisible Men (2019), which explored the design language of menswear and its focus on the reiteration of archetypal functional garments. It enabled the team to examine the interconnectivity and complexity of the relationships between specific industrial, technical or military cloth-based objects and their functionalities.
Within the conventions of the fashion exhibition, these investigations allowed Groves to explore further the complexity of the histories contained within menswear and its preoccupation with regulation, replication and subversion. Through this approach, menswear has developed a distinct design language that consistently references the archetypal dress of the “working man” in all his heroic iterations, referencing the clothing of seafarers, soldiers, athletes, firefighters, road workers and explorers. It illustrates how designers have disrupted these conventions through minimal, yet significant modifications to achieve results that both imitate and subvert their source material. Through this process of appropriation and reinterpretation, the meaning and functionalities of the source garments have faded with each repetition and allowed men and their dress to avoid scrutiny.
Groves led the project to establish and launch the WMA in 2016, with the purpose of redressing the historical omission
|Portfolio items||Invisible Men: An Anthology from the Westminster Menswear Archive|
|Invisible Men Conference|
|Invisible Men: An Anthology from the Westminster Menswear Archive|
|Publisher||University of Westminster|
|Web address (URL)||https://www.invisiblemenexhibition.com/|
|Digital Object Identifier (DOI)||https://doi.org/10.34737/qqq4v|