How important is it for a fashion designer to archive their collections?

Textile storage and preservation expert Doug Greenberg co-owns Garde Robe, the nation’s first and only museum-quality archive management and preservation service for fashion designers.

In addition to garment, footwear, fur and accessory storage and preservation services, Garde Robe, a strategic partner of the CFDA, provides professional photography and inventory of past collections, signature Cyber Closet “look book” technology ideally suited for managing design house collections, complimentary delivery and pick up service, and expert garment care. We checked in with Greenberg on the importance of archiving collections, its challenges, and advice he has in store for designers.

How important is it for a designer to archive their collections?

It’s imperative. Just look at brands like Christian DiorOscar de la Renta and Yves Saint Laurent, and how they have leveraged their archives to enhance brand recognition and loyalty via museum retrospectives. Plus, creative directors utilize past collections for inspiration. Many design houses do not view their archive as an asset worth keeping and preserving, and that’s a lost opportunity.

At what stage in their career should they begin to think about archiving and why?

Very often, a brand’s earliest collections are the ones considered iconic. Unfortunately, some designers sell their samples or gift them to customers or muses and live to regret that decision. An archive tells your brand’s story, and every story must start at the beginning.

What are the key challenges with storing garments?

Textile preservation expertise is required, so working with skilled, experienced archivists is essential, but hiring an in-house archivist can be cost prohibitive. Utilizing proper archival-grade storage supplies is mandatory, but also expensive. Setting up a proper archival storage space at one’s office is very difficult and costly.  Textiles have to be clean and sterilized in order to maintain the fabrics’ condition long-term, and runway samples often have perspiration, body tanner, hair spray, etc. I have seen irreplaceable collections kept in less-than-ideal storage locations with no climate control, trapped in plastic or vinyl bags that don’t allow the garment to “breathe.” Simply put, maintaining an archive isn’t easy or inexpensive.

How does Garde Robe provide solutions for these challenges? 

Garde Robe manages and protects designer archives for a fraction of the cost of hiring an in-house archivist and setting up an archival storage location. The archivists at Garde Robe are extremely knowledgeable about garment care and passionate about it. Garde Robe’s storage loft provides ideal climate conditions for preserving textiles. Garde Robe’s Cyber Closet look book technology and on-demand delivery service makes it easy to view and manage collections kept off-site.

What is the main piece of advice you would have for designers regarding archiving? 

At some companies, budgets to preserve past collections are minimal or non-existent.  Don’t let your precious collections languish. Your archives are sacred, one-of-a-kind, invaluable, irreplaceable and, most of all, destined for museum exhibits and studying by future generations of designers and scholars. In order to protect your legacy, you simply must preserve your archives.