Fashion’s archives have typically been restricted to paper: old magazines, show notes, sketches, and printed editorials. The industry’s pivot to digital has been great for the environment, but posed a threat to the physical archiving and preservation of fashion’s cultural artefacts and historical trajectory.

Elise By Olsen, founder of Wallet magazine, is remedying this by launching The International Library of Fashion Research to maintain and organize fashion’s printed culture at an institutional level. Essentially, it’s a vault of printed fashion matter.

“We will fill a much-needed gap in the preservation of and critical engagement with fashion’s printed culture at an institutional level, and build a free, globally accessible resource for fashion researchers, industry professionals, and amateur enthusiasts.” says Olsen. “The International Library of Fashion Research will work not only to preserve fashion’s past, but to understand its present and contribute to its future.”

The library will be based on a seed collection donated by cultural theorist Steven Mark Klein, containing over 7,000 pieces of contemporary printed matter dating back to 1975. The library will also home books, magazines, lookbooks, show invitations, and illustrations from Acne Paper, Andrew Leon Talley, Araki COMME des GARÇONS, Corinne Day, Dries van Noten, Helmut Newton, Hermès, Issey Miyake, Joe’s, Jurgen Teller, Larry Clark, Maison Martin Margiela, Marfa Journal, Mario Sorrenti, M/M Paris, Nan Goldin, Nick Knight, Pharrell Williams, Purple Fashion, Raf Simons, Ren Hang, Rick Owens, Rizzoli, Steven Meisel, Supreme, T Magazine, Vanessa Beecroft, Versace, and Yohji Yamamoto.

The International Library of Fashion Research is expected to open as a physical space in the new National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design in Oslo, Norway in Summer 2021, as seen in the animated projection below.

Preceding the physical space is the launch of the digital institution, a freely accessible space for study, amateur enthusiasts, and fellow fashion archivists to pour over historical fashion ephemera. “The digital sphere and websites have for a long time been a contested field for me, especially since I have been mainly working in print publishing for the past decade” says Olsen. “For this project, I wanted to create a ‘digital institution’ that is not a subordinate to the physical library, but a holistic and equal part of the concept and project.”

The International Library of Fashion Research’s digital institution will include a complete digital database of the full collection, and a video talk series to inject fresh discourse into the archival material by creating corresponding conversations with the creators behind them. To monitor the library’s development, Olsen has also established an advisory board consisting of leading industry voices, such as director of the Kyoto Costume Institute, Akiko Fukai; editor-in-chief of DAZED media, Isabella Burley; creative director of colette, Sarah Andelman; luxury creative consultant Shala Monroque; and founder of i-D, Terry Jones.

Explore the digital institution here.

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