15 December 2014

Rebooting The Archive

I managed to save some of the archive.

"They're only clothes".

I would like to say something that is blindingly obvious, but important to say nevertheless: clothes are there to be worn. I love fashion and dress. I love feeling fabrics, inspecting seams, getting an idea of the garment and some understanding of the construction (my knowledge of pattern cutting is relatively basic, but I have been attempting to learn more). I love trying on everything I can get my hands on - heck, I've tried on a corset, six inch heels and a ballgown...although, oddly, now that I think back at it, not all at the same time. I love wearing beautiful garments each and every day.

I often get asked what I wear when I am having a lazy day at home, or running out to the supermarket on a Sunday morning, to which the answer is the exact same clothes I normally wear. My wardrobe is too small for that not to be the case, and besides, there is a certain luxury to wearing full Yohji when doing the gardening or being prodded and poked (or worse, although admittedly those instances usually involve those rather breezy-back, bobbled cotton, faded blue gowns) in a hospital. Of course I try to take extremely good care of my clothes, but ultimately, you can't baby clothes, you have to wear them. I dislike the idea of owning a garment that only gets worn once or twice year - my wardrobe is built around the realities of my daily life, so it is formed entirely of pieces I wear regularly.

Omnia mea mecum porto - everything I have, I carry with me. I love every single garment I own, but if I was to lose them all tomorrow, it would not be the end of the world. I have actually been toying with the idea of donating my favourite Yohji sweater to charity just to see if I could. I am by nature a collector, but I dislike the idea of actually collecting - emotions mixed with rampant consumerism seems far too dangerous a combination for me personally. I like to live with less because it makes me constantly evaluate and re-evaluate the necessity of what I really need to be happy and content. That is not to say that I am against surrounding yourself with as many beautiful things as your heart desires, but for me you have to truly love those things, not just fill your life with clutter.

I absolutely love clothes, but I only own a few. Then again, I love books, but I own many (my dress library is finally reaching a respectably comprehensive state). I have a relatively small wardrobe, but I have owned many, many clothes and made just as many mistakes along the way. I am firm believer in the idea of never settling for less - go for what you love and go for the best. It does not matter how expensive, rare or beautiful a garment is, if it does not fit quite right, does not feel quite right, or is not being worn regularly enough to warrant keeping, I sell or donate it. That is not to even mention the fact that I will buy garments going cheap second hand purely in order to get my hands on them, inspect them in person, try them on and move around in them, before selling them again (and no, I do not flip for profit, I usually just sell to recoup the price I spent). Retail stores are a brilliant place to try on current and recently past season clothing, but there are so many garments out there to explore, I find it far too limiting to rely on that alone. Of course the dream is to be able to rummage through a museum archive, but I am working on that.

Like I said, I am collector, but I do not collect. Not in a way that is immediately apparent anyway - I collect information. When my laptop drive failed earlier this year, I lost a ton of information that I had spent years compiling - my archive. I managed to recover some of the archive (although sadly I did lose a massive amount), and having learnt the lesson that you should always back everything up the hard way, now that I have built my own computer I have a dedicated fashion hard drive (labelled the Rei drive, to my Yohji solid state boot drive, with an additional Issey drive to come...yes I know, terribly corny of me, but whatever). With the opportunity to start afresh I have decided to reboot the archive project in an incredibly ambitious way. I have implemented a five year plan to cover the period 2015-20, with additional features to help improve not only my collection of sensory and somatic information, but also a far more detailed archiving system to make sure I have as wide a spectrum of information as possible.

The original archive:

  • Front and back photographs of garment
  • Tagged size
  • Brand/designer
  • Country of manufacture
  • Fabric composition

The rebooted archive:

  • Front, back and detail photographs of garment
  • Tagged size, measurements, and description of actual fit
  • Brand/designer
  • Country of manufacture
  • Fabric composition
  • Date added - date sold/donated/worn-into-smithereens
  • Price and place bought - price and place sold/donated
  • Short description of sensory experience to be updated biannually
  • Short description of emotional experience to be updated biannually
  • Alterations and mending to be noted and photographed
  • Photographs of garment if remarkable wear patterns emerge

I will be photographing and documenting every single article of clothing I currently own, as well as every single piece I own for the next five years in similar (if not increasing) detail. The ultimate plan is to compile a detailed archive of my clothing for the next few decades in order to extrapolate trends and better understand my changing relationship with clothing over time. Our relationship with clothing is a constantly shifting dynamic, and one that fascinates me to no end, so where better to start than with my own experiences?


Simple. How can I possibly begin to understand why people wear what they wear if I don't even understand why I wear what I wear? It is also the most immediate source of information I have, and although it is not an objective project, having those sensory and emotional entries, it is not meant to be - I am interested in the experience of the individual wearer. I am also toying with the idea of adding a smaller side project - photographing and documenting the wardrobes of friends and family (who are happy to let me do so) on a yearly basis. The information, whilst not as detailed, will still show shifts in habits, and I plan to ask them to point out their favourite garment each time and explain why. Also the fact that this could include some people who are interested in fashion and others who are not, could also make it all the more fun. I plan on backing up all photographs and information in multiple locations so as to avoid losing information, and also to ensure that in the future I do actually have a solid and comprehensive archive to study. 

Alongside the archive I also plan to take a photograph of what I wear each and every day for the entirety of 2015, continuing either each year or at frequent intervals. The idea behind this is to have visual documentation of how the clothes are actually being worn, but also to better see shifting trends and habits in my dressing.

I may have lost the majority of several years worth of (admittedly basic) work, but going ahead I plan to have an even more detailed and impressive archive. Never give up, just aim higher.

Let the fun begin.



  1. That sounds like a awesome project. I look forward to it. I remember the days when you wore grey skinny suits and bright shirts! ;P I wish you luck! I tend to forget that documenting one’s outfit or “selfies” are a lot easier with smart phones. I’m still in the dark ages using a digital camera and basic non-texting cell phone with buttons! That black, white, and red sweater, so beautiful…but also those loose knits seem so fragile to me. Do you still own it?

    There a part of me that will always love clothes, enjoy buying them, even though I have A LOT. I went through a period where I wanted to collect statement/distinctive pieces from my favored designers. In my dream world, I wanted some kind of archive or to see them in museum one day, but the reality is I’m not rich enough, or well connected, or my things are too beat up for that. Now I’ll opt more towards things I can wear “now” vs. some fancy schemancy thing collecting dust in the corner. I too have archives, a Dior Homme one lurking somewhere, that I still burn things on CDs on occasion, since they come 235784357894 in a pack and I don’t burn music cds anymore every since I “discovered” the cord that connects the mp3 player to the car. (Can you tell I’m intentionally behind in technology?) I don’t look at it anymore since I maybe don’t want to horrify myself since “Hedi Slimane” isn’t what it used to mean to me anymore.

  2. P: Hahaha, blackmail material right there! It is crazy to look back over the photographs in my remaining archive...hot pink shirts, mint green trousers, deep purple sweaters.

    I'm taking all photographs from now on in RAW, both for the archive and the daily outfit shot, just to make sure I retain as much detail as possible going ahead - won't necessarily future proof the information, but at least make sure I am retaining as much as possible!

    It was a beautiful mohair knit, but yes, incredibly fragile. You can already see that it was stretching on the hanger I used just to take the photograph!

    That is part of the allure for me actually - the idea of eventually curating an exhibition based on the project (albeit a decade or two down the line). I have toyed with the idea of starting an actual personal Yohji archive, but the money and storage issues would be insane - I'd rather just buy to document them and sell them again!

    I am absolutely focused on having a practical wardrobe - I just packed it up today and it took up less half the space of my suitcase...the hangers use up more room!

    Haha and I have a folder on my hard drive with photographs of every single Dior Homme show from Hedi's era, and I have to look through it every time I see stupid Saint Laurent to calm me down!

  3. Your wardrobe are mostly black and simple design.Maybe not outstanding but definitely ,people must notice you are hip.
    This year I bought more than 10 pieces of CDG from net auction. I didn’t know many new or looks new clothing are selling at there. (I am not interested in old clothing that stranger wore and I don’t mind not newest style.)net auction shopping is my new pleasure:D New wardrobe always make me happy.
    Syed, Hope everything are going well about you. I am enjoying your blog and instagram still.
    I started to teach drawing at neighbor elementally school after school program this year. This is going well.One door closed,another door open!I want to keep challenge .

  4. M: Haha yeah, you can totally get brand new pieces if you shop around. I've bought a brand new pair of Yohji trousers with the tags still attached from a store closing sale online for next to nothing :) Part of the skill is definitely working within a budget, it forces you to really consider your options and buy carefully. I'm imagining lots of wonderful CdG!

    Oh wow, that's fantastic! Sounds like it should be super fun :)

    Hope you and your family have had a lovely Christmas! xxxx

  5. there's only one collection from DH that I ignore it's existence completely. the "pete" one, it was a spring one I remember.