Life & Culture

The Biggest Ever Exhibition of Menswear is Coming to London

Coming to London this October, Invisible Men is an extensive exploration of utilitarian menswear, featuring pieces from Alexander McQueen, Junya Watanabe, A Cold Wall* and Craig Green

Despite a flurry of blockbuster fashion exhibitions in recent years, few have devoted meaningful space to menswear and fewer still have made it the sole focus. Invisible Men, opening later this year, seeks to remedy this, promising to be the largest exhibition of menswear ever shown in the UK. 

Arriving at London’s Ambika P3 this October, Invisible Men will draw from the spoils of the Westminster Menswear Archive, a collection of over 1,700 items of clothing collected by the University of Westminster’s fashion department, spanning 120 years of men’s apparel. Predominately reserved for the use of the university’s fashion students for research, the collection ranges from military garments and uniforms to contemporary pieces by designers like Craig Green, Alexander McQueen and Comme des Garçons.

“I started the Westminster Menswear Archive in 2016 through frustration that students and designers in industry were unable to see historically important examples of menswear, which is not the case with womenswear which is readily available in exhibitions and galleries,” says Professor Andrew Groves, who will also curate the exhibition alongside Dr Danielle Sprecher. “We are beginning now to tell the untold story of menswear, and I’m incredibly excited that this exhibition will allow the public to see highlights from the collection, most of which have never been on public display before.”

This also means a rejection of what Groves calls “the well-worn menswear tropes of the ‘dandy’ or ‘peacock’” most often explored in fashion exhibitions, placing the focus instead on menswear intended for industrial, technical or military purposes – or, in the case of runway pieces, inspired by. Such archetypes explored will include soldiers, seafarers, firefighters and road workers, juxtaposing recent designer menswear with historic uniforms and workwear from the archive. Items from the British Army, the Royal Air Force, Greater Manchester Police, the General Post Office, and Her Majesty’s Prison Service will all feature, several of which have never previously been on public display.

Fashion highlights, meanwhile, include a 1984 ‘Clint Eastwood’ jacket by Vivienne Westwood, a sweatshirt from Stone Island’s first ever collection and an extensive number of early pieces by the late Alexander McQueen, including a plaid suit from his infamous Spring/Summer ‘Golden Shower’ collection. The work of Craig Green, A Cold Wall* and Palace will feature alongside.

“I am hopeful that it will lead to other institutions and museums to address the history of menswear in a more meaningful way,” says Groves. “And to give it the prominence that it deserves within their exhibition programmes.”

Invisible Men is on at Ambika P3, University of Westminster from 21 October – 24 November 2019.