British Vogue: The Collector

September 22, 2016

Ever since he was a little boy, American Vogue’s Hamish Bowles has been amassing an archive of extraordinary couture pieces. Fiona Golfar visits him in New York to view a few of his treasures, and discover the stories behind them. Excerpt below:

Hamish and I are standing in the bosom of his collection, a windowless room in a vast, sleek art-storage facility called UOVO in Long Island City where the majority of his collection lives, when it isn’t on loan to the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, the Met or the Fashion Institute  of Technology, among others – Hamish is a generous lender who has collaborated with all the great institutions. His two devoted research assistants, Molly and Jennifer, who work with him to maintain the archive, are puffing out sleeves with tulle, swelling skirts with yards of petticoat, bringing alive the contours of the dresses, their backs, waists, hips and busts, with gentle padding. Before us is 1926 Jeanne Lanvin, 1945 Madame Grès, 1948 Dior, 1951 Jacques Fath, 1967 Givenchy, 1969 Saint Laurent, 1981 Zandra Rhodes, and all these represent only a fraction of the 3,000-plus pieces he has been harvesting since the age of six. He recalls, “I had a red filing box, given to me by my father, in which I would keep the details of my jumble-shop finds on individual cards. I would write, ‘Ladies’ white satin evening slippers circa 1905, 50p, Bexhill- on-Sea jumble sale.’ I still have  them!” Today, however, his items are recorded on computer spreadsheets, while the clothes themselves are kept in individual tissue-padded garment boxes in temperature-controlled environments. “Sometimes I wish I had pursued my stamp collection. It would have been a great deal easier to store,” he quips.


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