Understanding The Fine Art And Business Of Wardrobe Archiving And Curation

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Expansive, museum-worthy wardrobes demand space, storage and proper organization. For covetable closets that hold a treasure trove of couture and vintage pieces, a simple Spring cleaning or backyard sale will never suffice. We’ve found wisdom in Marie Kondo-inspired philosophies when managing and cleaning out our wardrobes. Keep only the things that spark joy, says the author and organizing consultant. But what happens if every single piece inside your closet is an infinite source of joy? Or better yet, income?

In 2008, Fashion History and Collections Management expert, Julie Ann Clauss, was tasked by Tom Ford to archive his vast body of work. Her extensive knowledge of fashion history and experience in curating exhibitions for the Museum at FIT as well as Deitch Projects, lend a unique point of view and approach to archiving a large-scale compendium of collections throughout the years. Julie explains, “Through archiving, fashion houses can control their materials, curate their own story more directly, and use their archives as inspiration to inform new designs. Archives also play a key role when a new designer takes over a storied house, helping them understand traditional house codes and DNA.”

Realizing that her expertise could fill a gap in the market, Julie established the first of its kind fashion archiving and curating studio, The Wardrobe. “There wasn’t a resource that offered museum-quality fashion collection management and curatorial services,” she recalls. “Some companies solely stored seasonal items, but the focus was not on archiving and monetization. I am proud to say that The Wardrobe pioneered that business of fashion archiving.” Through Julie’s vision, the company applied museum-specific expertise with a sharp market sensibility. This in turn would allow clients to store, preserve and ultimately, monetize their wardrobes.

Since launching in New York in 2011, The Wardrobe has serviced other brands including Gabriela Hearst, Carolina Herrera, Proenza Schouler, Calvin Klein, and Marc Jacobs to name a few. It’s not only labels that benefit from professional wardrobe archiving. Julie explains, “Our services are absolutely crucial for entertainers. We archive everything our clients wear on tour, on the red carpet, and even the things that are documented wearing in their personal lives. There are many ways to monetize their archives, but they must be properly maintained and preserved.”

More private, individual clients whose noteworthy collections of heirloom or vintage pieces also make up the niche market of The Wardrobe. Julie likens garments and other fashion items of value to fine art. She says, “If you’re looking to save special pieces—whether heirlooms, designer vintage or old garments/accessories with sentimental value—care should be taken to properly store and preserve them.”

The Wardrobe facilities in both New York and Los Angeles operate like a museum. Climate and temperature are controlled and optimized. Museum-grade air filtration systems ensure that items stored in the space are preserved. State-of-the-art security systems guaranteed safety and securing of precious fashion treasures.

Archiving at The Wardrobe begins with a thorough assessment. Julie details, “We begin by analyzing each piece to know what type of service is needed. Is the garment safe to hand? Does it need to be packed flat in an archival box? Then, we photograph, catalo, and digitize each piece using our proprietary platform, The Digital Archivist. Our clients are able to see their archives from any device.”

Through the company’s meticulous work, clients have been able to create value and monetize their style acquisitions. According to Julie, their archived pieces have been used in various exhibitions including those at the prestigious Costume Institute. She adds, “It’s also been used for red carpet dressing, employed education and onboarding, movie costuming, and even to promote a film that was nominated for an Emmy.” The Wardrobe also facilitates auctions and sales. The possibilities are boundless, says Julie. “There are many ways our clients leverage their archives without having to divest the physical asset.”

Sky is also the limit where future projects and collaborations at The Wardrobe are concerned. Fashion cognoscenti from all over Europe have expressed an interest in working with the company. Julie discloses, “We’d love to consider a global expansion. Also, stay tuned for an exciting celebrity collaboration.”