Professor Andrew Groves, Dr Danielle Sprecher


25 October – 24 November 2019


Drawing exclusively from the Westminster Menswear Archive, Invisible Men covers the last 120 years of predominately British menswear through the display of over 170 garments, the majority of which have never been seen on public display. Invisible Men will the most extensive exhibition devoted to menswear to be staged in the UK.


Opening in October 2019, this four-week exhibition is arranged into twelve sections, presenting designer garments alongside military, functional, and utilitarian outfits. It explores the design language of menswear, which predominately focuses on the replication of repeats archetypal functional garments intended for specific industrial, technical or military use.


Invisible Men will illustrate how designers have disrupted these conventions through minimal, yet significant modifications to produce outcomes that both replicate and subvert their source material. Through this approach, the language of menswear has developed an almost fetishistic appreciation of the working man in all his heroic iterations, referencing the clothing of seafarers, soldiers, athletes, firefighters, road workers, and explorers. 


The endless replication, appropriation and interpretation within menswear has meant that the meaning and function of the original archetypes has faded through each reiteration.


This design strategy has, for the most part, allowed men and what they wear to avoid scrutiny: these garments have remained invisible within fashion exhibitions in favour of presenting menswear largely as the story of the dandy or the peacock male.


This exhibition aims to shine a light on these invisible men.


Against a contemporary backdrop of ceaseless military action, camouflage has been adopted by civilians as a ubiquitous pattern of our lives, adorning runways, sportswear, skateboards, toilet papers and even condoms.


Used for its striking designs, its ‘patterned disorder’ and its symbolism, the exhibition explores its artistic, fashionable and political use as a strategic and aspirational means to make the visible invisible, and paradoxically the unseen seen.


Using examples that illustrate the development of camouflage from its early military beginnings at the turn of the twentieth century through its varied relationships with artists and designers, the exhibition incorporates still imagery and film to examine the stylistic, sociological, and political context; analysing its ubiquitous appropriation – from fashion to art to architecture.


Featuring a range of historical military garments alongside their adaptive high-end fashion versions, the exhibition also includes a selection of unusual artefacts that have adapted camouflage for their own means, and questions the neutrality of blending in as a means of survival.


The Vanishing Art of Camouflage is the first exhibition to draw extensively from the newly created Westminster Menswear Archive. The archive has been founded for the purpose of establishing a collection of garments and related artefacts to encourage and develop the study of menswear design from a technical and functional point of view. The archive is also intended to advance the general knowledge of menswear as a design discipline, and to be used as a resource tool to inform contemporary menswear design. 


The exhibition explores the role played by archetypal garments in the modern fashion design process, explaining their sociological, political and stylistic contexts, and their re-appropriation; both as items of clothing and as pieces of functional design in their own right.


Six archetypal garments are featured; a Duffle Coat, a Denim Jacket, a Leather Biker, a Military Field Jacket, an MA1 Flying Jacket and a Trench Coat. Each has a rich history, borne from a function, appropriated by fashion and subculture and constantly reinvented for the fashion market.


Alongside each of the original archetypes are the outcomes of the study of those garments by students at the University. Moving imagery locates them in an expanded visual and historic context, including catwalk footage and film extracts, intercut with additional research imagery and student portfolio work.


2017     The Overworked Body: An Anthology Of 2000s Dress, Goethe-Institut, New York
2014     Isabella Blow: Fashion Galore!, Somerset House, London
2013     ICA Off-Site: A Journey Through London Subculture: 1980s To Now
2013     PAPER #7 'Performing Paper', Paper Gallery, Manchester
2013     Hurray! – MoBA 13, Arnhem, Netherlands
2013     Dark Florals, Rapid Response exhibition, The Fashion Museum, Bath
2010     Fashionably Curious - Linley Sambourne House, London
2009     Chris Moore - 25 Years of British Fashion, Somerset House, London
2008     Denim – The Fabric of Our Lives, The Hub. Sleaford, England
2001     London Fashion Week – Catwalk presentations, London
2000     Hong Kong Fashion Week – Catwalk show, Hong Kong
2000     London Fashion Week – Catwalk presentations, London
1999     New British Design - The Mall, London
1999     London Fashion Week – Catwalk presentations, London
1999     British Fashion Exhibition - Design Museum, London
1999     New British Fashion – Islington Design Centre, London
1998     London Fashion Week – Catwalk presentations, London
1998     Design Week Exhibition – Fashion Installation, London
1997     London Fashion Week – Catwalk presentations, London
1996     Street Style Exhibition – Victoria & Albert Museum, London
1996     Street Style Exhibition – Moda Florence, Italy