Time Machine

In almost every fashion collection, there is a reference to the past. One designer may explore one era in depth, another may splice together various historical periods. This animated short by filmmaker Quentin Jones and AnOther fashion editor Agata Belcen, brings together handpicked archive pieces from the Museum of London and selections from the spring/summer 2011 collections, currently in stores. Set to a London-themed soundtrack devised by William Skeaping, the energetic short incorporates fashions from over six centuries.

There is no better place to understand historical clothing than a costume museum. The Museum of London boasts one of the largest and most diverse dress collections in the UK. Since its opening at Kensington Palace in 1912, the Museum has collected clothing and textiles of historical interest connected with London. Its current east London location holds over 20,000 objects which are carefully stored in a darkened space below the galleries. Given unprecedented access to Museum of London's archives, Belcen was able to explore the connections between historic dress and the spring/summer collections. "How a Viktor & Rolf sleeve is the cousin of a 19th century puffed shoulder; how the leafy prints of a delaine dress from 1838 are a colour match to the limes and grapefruits in the Stella McCartney print."

The opening scene showcases a rainbow of shoes, dating back the the 16th century including a pair of red satin brocade slippers, crimson velvet mules and black patent and lace ankle boots. An orange paper leaf printed fan from the 1920s, was a particular favourite of Belcen. It shows a scene of a couple dancing to a minstrel band, in a room decorated with potted palms. "Its colour palette seems so relevant to the season, but it's dated by the attitudes of the time." The selection of footwear is followed by a stream of vintage spectacles and sunglasses dating back to the 18th century, a pair of leather arm-length gloves and vintage hats which feature as hot air balloons.

The pieces were brought to life with surreal animation, including collage techniques using archive fabrics and key motifs such as stars, bananas and rabbits, which reference the print trend from the spring/summer 11 collections. Set designer Robert Storey's simple structures – a cube, a rectangular rail and a large black semi-circle – provide a complementary backdrop to the intricate designs and Jones' animations. Model Katya Konstantinova is seen moving through the 3D Mondrian-inspired frames and the graphic black shapes. Jones particularly enjoyed working with the crinolines in the closing scenes, which formed the bodies of bouncing red foxes. "Their architectural structure was fun to offset and make into an R2-D2-like character, and their vibrant redness  is a perfect accompaniment to Katya dressed in a bight orange peplum."

Text by Laura Bradley