Some the brightest names in British fashion history are counted among the Royal College of Art’s alumni – from Ossie Clark and Philip Treacy to Erdem Moralioglu and Christopher Bailey – which makes its annual fashion show an event in and of itself. So to delve into the college’s ever-evolving archive of invitations is to take a trip through its history – and to trace the patterns that have emerged since the fashion course was first founded some 70 years ago. “I feel that the RCA has a very strong, invisible history, and every history is a family,” its head of fashion, Zowie Broach, told AnOther last year. “We stare in the same way, and hold fabric and move with similar intensity. You can layer these images up on top of each other and see this oscillation between themes and tendencies.”
Next week sees this year’s edition of the show take place in London, along with those of neighbouring institutions, and while its premise has developed over the years – 2018 promises “an evening that feeds you physically, visually… and sensorially, with interwoven talks, dance, movement, rites, rituals and installation” – the central focus remains on a new generation of industry-altering talent. And what better way to recall that which has passed before, than with a tour of the show invitations of years gone by? From a dainty floral demarcation for 1955, to 1981’s vibrant collage of shapes, each comprises fragments of the era which formed it, and makes, by virtue of its very existence, an irresistible case for never throwing anything away.