V&A Unveil New Staff Uniforms by Christopher Raeburn – Opinion

23.01.2018

Last month, the V&A unveiled a scheme of new staff uniforms designed by British fashion designer Christopher Raeburn. Gallery and retail staff and volunteers at Kensington Road and the V&A’s Museum of Childhood are now wearing the vibrant, contemporary uniforms.

The new V&A staff uniforms. Images courtesy V&A and Christopher Raeburn

The uniform draws inspiration from the museum’s vast collection and features a range of brightly-coloured separates that can be swapped or layered depending on an employee’s location and role. V&A staff gave written feedback, visited Raeburn’s design studio and were shadowed by Raeburn’s team to ensure the uniforms responded to their individual and collective requirements.

The items include t-shirts, tops, bomber jackets, lightweight long jackets and rainproof parkers, all staples in Raeburn’s collections, reimagined in bright orange and blue colours. The clothing is manufactured in recycled and organic fabrics, owing to Raeburn’s ethical design ethos.

The pièce de résistance is the Raeburnesque silhouette print that directly references 20 of the museum’s key objects. The vector print design, synonymous with the fashion label, includes Gian Lorenzo Bernini’s Neptune and Triton, the dramatic marble sculpture that greets visitors in the European sculpture galleries; a 19th-century Japanese sculpture in the shape of a rabbit; a Spacehopper from 1970s Britain and an 1870s rocking horse.

We’ve always been enamoured with graphic designer Alan Fletcher’s iconic and elegant V&A logo – it still gives us the shivers. It’s great to see that Raeburn and his team have used the emblem to maximum effect – something we do a lot in our studio. The t-shirts and jackets feature large embrodiered versions of the logo.

Opinion

The rollout caused quite a stir when it was unveiled on the museum’s blog last month, as well as across multiple design and culture magazines online. The comments are cutting, with readers saying the uniforms looked cheap, lacked style and were unflattering for most body shapes. The Telegraph said “more B&Q than Balenciaga”. Others were concerned that the bright colours would collide or distract from the museum’s rich collections.

Meanwhile, revered art critic Waldemar Januszczak had this to say:

We’re huge fans of Christopher Raeburn and his designs here at Field Grey. While the uniforms are striking and provide impact, we can’t help but feel the collection is a little indulgent, with Raeburn’s key pieces reimagined for the museum, rather than tailoring a brand new collection that caters to the day-to-day roles of staff. We agree that the vibrancy of the uniform might jar with the museum’s subtle displays. Regardless, we are ever so slightly envious that staff get to wear the label every day.

What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!