The Suit: Form, Function & Style

Cover of "The Suit" by Christopher Breward

There is something frenetic and exciting about the publication of a book. Especially when it’s been a long time in the writing. And there’s also something a bit sad about delivering the last words on a project before moving on to the next.

These past couple of weeks have been focused on celebrating the launch of my monograph The Suit: Form, Function & Style published (very handsomely) by Reaktion Books. It brings together almost two decades worth of thinking about the design, cut, wearing and representation of this classic wardrobe item, all of which began when I was engaged on my PhD about men as consumers of fashion in late nineteenth-century London (submitted in 1998). Continue reading

Time for research

"British Design: Tradition and Modernity after 1948" cover

“British Design” cover

A number of personal research projects of mine have culminated in publication this autumn.

British Design: Tradition and Modernity after 1948 marks the end of a project that began with my co-curation of the British Design: Innovation in the Modern Age exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2012.

The exhibition raised many questions about the particular relationship between place, time and space that characterises much of the UK’s design culture, and a conference during the exhibition’s run produced the chapters in this book. Continue reading

How do fashion cycles and design culture interact?

Panel L-R, Marloes ten Bhomer, Cher Potter, Lisa White, Joanne Entwistle, Chris Breward. Image courtesy of Leah Armstrong, University of Brighton

Panel L-R, Marloes ten Bhomer, Cher Potter, Lisa White, Joanne Entwistle, Chris Breward.
Image courtesy of Leah Armstrong, University of Brighton

Dr Leah Armstrong at the University of Brighton recently posted about an event I spoke at on the blog of Design Culture Salon, a partnership between University of Brighton and the Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum.

I was chairing the discussion, entitled “How do fashion cycles and design culture interact?”, on 14th November this year at the V&A, and Dr Armstrong’s post recounts some of the main points made during the debate:

Fashion historian Professor Chris Breward, Principal of Edinburgh College of Art, offered an interesting route into this conversation by introducing one of the most fundamental questions that binds together the study of design culture and fashion cycles: time. Specifically, he suggested that fashion theory has something to offer design culture here, in its discussion of fashion as an embodiment of time and space.

Read the full post on the Design Culture Salon blog >

Visiting Shanghai

Shanghai Fashion Week, 2014

If I was a much younger man looking for metropolitan thrills and a glimpse of a future self, I think that Shanghai might be my choice of escape. New York and Berlin (the destinations for my generation) seem so twentieth-century by comparison. Continue reading

Glamour and Espionage: the story of Brian Stonehouse

Brian Stonehouse

From flyer for the upcoming Brian Stonehouse exhibition at Abbott and Holder

On a visit to London last week I called in to the picture dealer Abbott and Holder in Museum Street. This is a long-standing haunt, celebrated for its stock of excellent British drawings, watercolours and paintings from the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries.

Conversations with the gallery’s director Philip Athill are always enlightening and on this visit he drew my attention to a forthcoming exhibition of the fashion illustrator Brian Stonehouse (1918-1998). Stonehouse’s elegant work for Vogue through the 1960s compares well with that of many of his better-known peers, but it is the backstory to his life that is truly fascinating. Continue reading

Soft Power

Image by Billy Smith (, used under a Creative Commons license

Image by Billy Smith (, used under a Creative Commons license

Holidays in the Hebrides and the busy beginning of semester have rather limited time for the blog, but I return with a transcription of a position statement I delivered during the last week of the Edinburgh International Festival at the end of August at a discussion panel addressing the question of ‘soft power’ in contemporary Scotland. Chaired by my colleague Charlie Jeffery and including contributions by developmental linguist Antonella Sorace and think-tank consultant John Holden, it took place before last night’s momentous referendum vote, but it seems apposite to post it the day after. Continue reading