The Vanishing Art of Camouflage

Image: Guilty by Jeff Koons. Photographed by Yiorgos Kaplanidis


LGW is delighted to present The Vanishing Art of Camouflage; co-curated by Andrew Groves, Course Director of BA Fashion, and Robert Leach, Senior Lecturer at the University of Westminster.

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.

Andrew Groves is the Course Director for BA Fashion Design at Westminster. Graduates of the course include Christopher Bailey, Chief Creative Officer of Burberry; Katie Hillier, Creative Director for Hillier Bartley; Jutta Kraus, Creative Director of Bernhard Willhelm; and Stuart Vevers, Creative Director of Coach.

In recent years he has taught a new wave of London Fashion Week designers including Claire Barrow, Ashley Williams, Liam Hodges, and Roberta Einer.

Groves’ (Central St Martins, 1997) launched his eponymous collection during London Fashion Week in September 1997, and in the process started what has now become LFW's off-schedule calendar. Mixing Savile Row tailoring with found objects such as masonry nails, hair and dead flies, his aesthetic was inspired by non-traditional themes and drew on the work of Susan Sontag, JG Ballard and Michel Foucault. Now collected by museums including the V&A, his work is proving inspirational to a new generation of designers in London and internationally.

Robert Leach (Kingston,1981) has worked in the fashion business for over thirty years, as a designer in his own right, and as stylist and journalist for visionary publications such as i-D Magazine, and on major advertising campaigns for the screen and print. He is Senior Lecturer at the University of Westminster, and Associate Lecturer at Central St Martins. His first book The Fashion Resource Book explains the process of researching for design to the young designer. The Fashion Resource Book - Men, was published in March 2014 and includes interviews with industry professionals and a chapter on archetypal menswear garments.

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