Belstaff has been quietly curating and building its Archive in preparation for the brand’s Centenary in 2024. Over the 30 months since the company moved its headquarters back to London, the Archive has been grown to an incredible 150 pieces, covering the most significant and prolific of the brand’s themes, namely aviation, military, naval and moto. The Archive also showcases Belstaff's long tradition for developing innovative materials. Some truly incredible pieces have been discovered: a 1930s flying suit with Belstaff’s first factory name (Middleton) emblazoned across its back; a WWII map case dated 1944; and a 1920s tent (interestingly, the term 'Bell tent' derived from the original spelling of “Bellstaff” and its logo of a bell). Then there are more recent exciting additions such as the ladies’ 60s turquoise rubberised Scooterjack jacket and breeks, and myriad four-pocket wax-cotton jackets from different eras, in an array of different colours, patinas, linings and labels – but the essential design forever remaining the same.
Belstaff archivist, Doug Gunn of The Vintage Showroom, said "I have had a lasting passion for Belstaff, so to be given the opportunity to build and develop their archive has been a dream job. There are few brands globally with such a rich history and Belstaff's 90-plus years have seen countless cultural and geographical changes which have reflected in the company’s evolution, which I find fascinating. For a costume historian such as myself it is a real honour to work for such an iconic British brand."
This London Fashion Week sees the first reveal of a part of the Archive, with a small exposition in the New Bond Street flagship telling the story of Belstaff and Leather, being such a key material for the brand. This theme supports Belstaff’s over-arching Leather campaign running concurrently in the store, windows and online. The exposition furthers the idea that a Belstaff leather jacket is a second skin, an extension of oneself providing protection, comfort and confidence, and hence the brand’s tagline “Outerwear for Inner Strength”.
A special stand has been created to exhibit the Archive, which can be transported between stores or other destinations, built up or down. This drive follows the success of Isetan’s pop-up in Tokyo last November, in which five of Belstaff’s key archive pieces were displayed as part of their British Week exhibition.
During London Fashion Week, the stand will display iconic pieces showing the history of the brand’s usage of leather, from protection in the 30s, through the moto-culture of the 50s, to the 70s, with a part specifically dedicated to Belstaff’s coloured and striped leathers from that era, which, along with the seminal 1971 film “On Any Sunday” starring Steve McQueen, inspired the current SS17 men’s and women’s fashion collections dropping in store now.
Additionally, there will be a rail of unique curated vintage pieces for sale alongside the exhibit.
Belstaff CEO Gavin Haig said “The Archive has been an incredible inspiration to us internally for some time, guiding collection design, communications, company ethos and much more; we are delighted to be able to start sharing it with the public and hope that it stimulates them as much as it has us.”