Contemporary Wardrobe was originally set up in 1978, by costume designer & stylist Roger K. Burton as a specialist hire company to supply vintage street fashion, couture items and accessories to the Film, TV and Fashion industries.
Since its inception Contemporary Wardrobe has always been renowned for being at the forefront of cutting edge style. Born out of a passion for youth culture, and recognition of street fashion’s importance in our social history, the collection now exceeds fifteen thousand garments, designed between 1945 and the present day, and representing a multitude of diverse youth movements and cult fashions. Including definitive items from British and American youth cults as well as classic pop fashion from seminal boutiques such as Mr Freedom, Biba and Seditionaries, and couture houses such as Yves Saint Laurent, Dior and Givenchy.
Although well documented for supplying youth orientated films like ‘Quadrophenia’, ‘Absolute Beginners’, ‘Sid & Nancy’, ‘Hackers’ and ‘Stoned’ to name but a few, the collection’s real importance is reflected by the amount of bands – over 400 to date – that have either worn items or entire outfits from this amazing selection, in their promotional videos, stills, on stage and album covers.
From Pop royalty to Cult icons, from Rock ‘n’roll super groups to Soul divas and One hit wonders; at one time or another Contemporary Wardrobe has dressed them all, and as such we are very proud of our heritage, which includes David Bowie, Annie Lennox, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, through to Will Young, PJ Harvey and Kanye West. Consequently the wardrobe archives are bursting with ‘as worn by’ trophies that now regularly appear in museums around the world.
At the pop promo height during the early to mid eighties, stylists, designers and artists were pouring through the door on a daily basis; in search of undiscovered treasures and hungry for new ideas to feed the infant MTV beast. This fresh interest in pop cultures historic iconography was born out of kids’ frustration with stifling mainstream fashion, and owes much to the liberating punk movement. It also coincided with a crop of new style magazines that were making an appearance at the time, and was further fuelled by the likes of iD, the Face, and Blitz who were regularly featuring the latest bands and musicians, wearing our clothes. It felt as if everyone on the scene was plundering the past for inspiration, and having such a vast collection and specialist knowledge, Contemporary Wardrobe was the obvious choice. As one well-known 80s record producer once commented, ‘if there was nothing happening on the streets, you could be sure to find inspiration at Contemporary Wardrobe’.
The same is true today, judging by the growing amount of famous fashion designers (i.e. the new rock’n’roll elite) who visit us on a regular basis in order to unearth long gone looks and rework them for today’s style conscious market.
Over the past 28 years, the range and diversity of the collection’s use has been quite staggering, what one stylist would cast aside as outdated junk, another will turn it into an exotic creation and begin a whole new fashion trend.
During this time, not only have Contemporary Wardrobe been the keepers of culture, but instigators of many a new trend, through a programme of recycling and constant reinvention of the past.