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Victoria and Albert Museum collaborates with Google

By Danielle Wightman-Stone


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The Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London is collaborating with Google as part of its ‘We Wear Culture’ project to unlock its fashion collections online with a new virtual experience.

The V&A is joining more than 180 cultural institutes around the world from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Palace of Versailles to create the largest ever virtual exhibition of style that uses state-of-the-art technology to allow viewers to explore 3,000 years of world fashion and discover the stories behind the clothes we wear today.

As part of the project, a 1990 Vivienne Westwood corset from the V&A’s collection has been reimagined in virtual reality for the first time. This new interpretation of the corset celebrates Westwood’s unique take on one of the most controversial garments in history in a 360° film that examines the corset’s place within fashion history and discusses its design, which encompasses a painting by French artist François Boucher, to explore the inextricable links between fashion and art.

Kati Price, head of digital at the V&A, said: “We are constantly exploring how new technologies can help bring the V&A’s unrivalled fashion collection to life online. Online visitors can now see the incredible detail of highlights from the Museum’s collection, while discovering the tantalising stories behind them in ways never experienced before.

“Through these revelatory online experiences and exhibitions, we hope viewers will gain a greater understanding of the craftsmanship and design expertise that transforms fashionable clothing into pieces of art.”

The V&A’s fashion collection is one of the most comprehensive collections in the world spanning five centuries and includes 17th century gowns, 18th century mantua dresses, 1930s eveningwear, 1960s daywear and post-war couture, including designs by Charles James, Christian Dior and Cristóbal Balenciaga, as well as pieces from the likes of Westwood, Alexander McQueen and Rei Kawakubo and more than 5,000 objects from its collections are now accessible through the ‘We Wear Culture’ platform.

V&A joins Google’s ‘We Wear Culture’ virtual experience project

To make the collections part of the Google project, the technology giant used four ultra-high resolution ‘gigapixel’ images taken by the Google Art Camera to reveal highlights from the V&A collection that have been hidden to the naked eye until now. Viewers can now zoom in at the stitches of an 18th century Dragon Robe worn by a Qing Dynasty emperor or get close to a 1937 Elsa Schiaparelli evening coat to explore the connection between fashion and Surrealist art or even investigate the Arts and Crafts movement through a 1895-1900 Marshall and Snelgrove evening coat, as well as consider the unprecedented luxury of British court life through a mantua robe dating to 1755-60.

The V&A has also created eight bespoke online exhibitions for the project, featuring photography, video content and commentary, these include: Gallery of Fashion, which traces five centuries of fashion at the V&A; The Politics of Fashion, a survey of 18th century British court style; V&A Fashion in Motion, showcasing the Museum’s most memorable live catwalk shows, including Alexander McQueen (1999) and Yohji Yamamoto (2011); and Schiaparelli and Surrealism investigating the artistic genius of Elsa Schiaparelli and how the designer transformed fashion.

Amit Sood, director of Google Arts & Culture, added: “We invite everyone to browse the exhibition on their phones or laptops and learn about the stories behind what you wear. You might be surprised to find out that your jeans or the black dress in your wardrobe have a centuries-old story. What you wear is true culture and more often than not a piece of art.”

The ‘We Wear Culture’ platform is available online and through the Google Arts and Culture app on iOS and Android.

Images: courtesy of the Victoria and Albert Museum/Google

We Wear Culture