It’s been a fantastically busy and exciting year at the V&A; the Museum’s immense creativity and reach has continued to flourish and grow. The wealth of remarkable ideas and objects found here at the V&A are embedded across everything we do. From our architecture, exhibitions and events, to our publications, retail and digital media, each element is an important part of our story.
The V&A’s staff are integral to our purpose, and front of house staff are at the heart of this communication. Our superb Visitor Experience teams bring our brand to life – and in an exciting development – we are delighted to have worked with award-winning British fashion designer Christopher Raeburn on brilliant, new uniforms for our gallery assistants, retail staff and volunteers. These garments and accessories are colourful, practical and adaptable, whilst connecting with our foundational purpose in inspiring contemporary designers. Christopher focused on iconic objects from the V&A’s collections – from Japanese netsuke and a 1970s Spacehopper, to Bernini sculpture and an 1870s rocking horse – to design a print from their silhouettes. Importantly, Raeburn’s ethos of responsible design has also ensured that certified recycled and organic materials were used throughout. Our new uniforms ingeniously reflect the V&A’s distinctive spirit of creativity and imagination.
Our team asked Christopher how he approached working with the team and the museum.
V&A: You are probably now the designer with the most pieces in the Victoria and Albert Museum, but do you have work in the collection as well as on the gallery assistants?
Christopher Raeburn: It’s been a real honour to design a uniform for the V&A staff. We’re also really proud to announce that we’ll be exhibiting a look from our iconic REMADE Silk Map collection at the V&A’s ‘Fashioned from Nature’ exhibition early next year.
V&A: How did you go about designing the new uniform?
CR: The first thing we did was to sit down with the team and have a discussion; we felt it was really important to understand their needs – and their working environment over the seasons.
We worked closely with the V&A as we developed the collection and many feedback sessions to refine the uniform. We also felt using a vibrant colour palette was important but, ultimately, we wanted to draw as much inspiration from the museum’s collection as possible; especially through the print itselft, and the iconic objects from the Museum that feature within it.
V&A: How important is it to design to specific needs?
CR: Considered design is the core of what we do. Understanding what everyone needs to do the best job they can – from the front-of-house teams to the volunteers – was a vital part of the design process.
V&A: Did you have any concerns when you started working on the project? Did they change over time?
CR: The opportunity to responsibly design uniforms for such an incredible institution comes with an obligation to do things properly and in a considered way!
One of the challenges was around the fluctuation in temperature in the galleries. We needed to develop a carefully considered layering system to work across a range of temperatures and reflect the needs of different staff throughout the Museum.
V&A: You place a strong emphasis on sustainable fashion – are any of the pieces for the V&A uniform made from recycled or upcycled material?
CR: Yes, all pieces have been designed and developed responsibly with a focus on certified recycled and organic materials throughout.
V&A: How did you choose the textiles that make up the garments?
CR: The materials were very much chosen in line with our company ethos. Everything we do as a business is underpinned by the three ‘Rs’: Remade, Reduced and Recycled. From using recycled materials for the outerwear, to organic cottons for the jersey.
V&A: Would you wear it yourself?
CR: Absolutely! A lot of the pieces have been refined from classic Raeburn designs such as the mesh bomber jacket and rainproof parka. It’s been a real honour to develop those pieces further to meet the needs of the V&A.