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6 Apr

The Wardrobe Explores Possibilities for Fashion Archives at Secret Warehouse

For fashion historian and exhibition curator, Julie Ann Clauss, the preservation of fashion archives goes well beyond the storing of seasonal items — it’s about taking them into the long run and keeping them relevant.

Known for her experience archiving and curating for the Museum at FIT, Deitch Projects and other designer archives, with museum-level standards, Clauss was tapped by Tom Ford in 2008 to ascertain a comprehensive achievement of his work. It was then, Clauss told WWD, that she realized a resource that offered museum-quality fashion collection management and curational services was a necessity the industry was severely lacking.

In 2011, Clauss launched The Wardrobe, a premier fashion archival consultancy and curation studio that gives museum-quality conservation and restoration. The Wardrobe’s top-secret facility (the primary of its kind to be housed in Los Angeles), offers museum-level temperature control, lighting, security systems and more at an undisclosed location. Called, Wardrobe West, the warehouse is the primary archival fashion facility opened by a museum-trained fashion archivist.

Furthermore, Clauss also effectively provides her clients along with her expertise and market sensibility through the corporate’s first-of-its-kind services that enable designers and entertainers to unlock hidden value and leverage their archives for monetization and continued relevancy.

Today, The Wardrobe works with clients including Tom Ford, Oscar de la Renta, Calvin Klein and Chloë Sevigny, amongst other high-profile A-list celebrities, designers and couture collectors world wide.

Here, Clauss speaks to WWD about pioneering the business of fashion archiving, supporting the preservation of fashion and the way she works with clients to creatively construct upon the monetization of fashion archives.

WWD: How does The Wardrobe stand other than other fashion archivists?

Julie Ann Clauss: The Wardrobe pioneered the business of fashion archiving, and consequently, we have now an amazing breadth of hands-on experience. Our clients range from fashion houses to A-list entertainers, to personal collectors and consequently, we have now seen all of it. 

We’ve built vintage inspiration libraries for corporate clients that own multiple labels, we’ve collected back the archives of major designers, we have now unpacked the tour cases of Grammy-winning artists to repair and archive their stage costumes, we’ve researched and dated collections for personal collectors — and people are only just a few examples of the wide-ranging work we’ve done.

We’re also the one archiving firm that helps its clients monetize their archives — without having to auction them off. And our access to capital enables our clients to leverage their assets and generate revenue without having to speculate their additional dollars.

WWD: How does The Wardrobe support the preservation of fashion?

J.A.C.: Through archiving, fashion houses can control their materials, curate their very own story more directly and use their archives as inspiration to tell latest designs. Archives also play a key role when a latest designer takes over a storied house (as is so often the case with the foremost European labels) in helping the brand new designer understand traditional house codes and DNA. 

Our services are crucial for entertainers and Hollywood. We archive every part our clients wear on tour, on the red carpet, in movies or TV shows and even the things they’re documented wearing of their personal lives. There are such a lot of ways for them to monetize their archives, however the pieces have to be properly maintained and preserved for the worth to be there. 

Our platform, The Digital Archivist, allows clients to look up any piece they desire of their personal archive from their phone, make seamless pulls and have a full overview of their archive, in addition to help with the monetization of things without having them physically in front of them. It’s helpful for plenty of clients) to simply track the situation of any piece inside our facility — they’ll see if a bit has been checked out, where it was sent, who the courier was, when the piece was returned to our facility and stored, etc.

WWD: What’s the importance of proper archiving in fashion?

J.A.C.: Designers can tap into their archives to repurpose their previous collections. Not only does this cause their collection to consist of some iconic, historical references, however the brand is ultimately being sustainable by repurposing original ideas/fabrics. 

There’s [also] tremendous value and opportunity in archiving — especially for the style and entertainment communities. One great recent example: Christie’s just auctioned off a Victor Edelstein gown that belonged to Princess Diana for over $600,000. The last time the dress was auctioned in 1997, it brought in somewhat over $24,000. That is kind of a handsome profit. If the dress weren’t properly stored and preserved, the sale wouldn’t have been possible. 

Entertainers and designers are sitting on tremendously beneficial assets that we might help them preserve and even increase in value. 

WWD: What are a few of the creative ways through which you help to monetize the archives?

J.A.C.: The Archives we manage have been used for every part from exhibitions — including at the celebrated Costume Institute — to red carpet dressing, worker education and onboarding, movie costuming, experiential events, loans and even to advertise productions nominated for awards. We also help facilitate auctions and sales.

The sky is the limit here. There are various ways we help our clients leverage their archives without having to divest the physical asset. 

WWD: You’ve recently opened a location in L.A., what are you able to tell us about it?

J.A.C.: Wardrobe West is our brand latest archival facility in Los Angeles. It’s outfitted with temperature and humidity control, air filtration, lighting control, 24-hour security [and] motion detectors, and is a stand-alone constructing in an unpublished location. 

What people have to know is how we be sure that each clients’ belongings are housed in their very own “mini museum” inside the facility. Whether it’s a full design house’s previous collection or an entertainer’s costumes, every part is preserved in probably the most pristine and museum-level conditions, to properly maintain and even increase each item’s value for whatever future use which may be.

We do also offer our services to personal individuals with fashion they need to store — “archiving” can sound intimidating, however it’s actually quite inexpensive and convenient for the typical fashion fan, too. 

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