ANTIQUES & COLLECTING: Fashion Is Next Big Thing in Museums; A Treasure Trove of Clothing and Accessories Has Gone on Show at a New Gallery, Reports Harry Hawkes

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Byline: Harry Hawkes

It is always heartening to report such a rare event as the opening of a new museum or gallery in the Midlands, particularly when it has a strong appeal to a large number of collectors in the region.

The welcome, of course, is twofold. First, it is another indication of how popular collecting has become to enthusiasts in all walks of life who wish to explore and tell the story of a particular hobby. There is perhaps the chance also along the way to make a spot of cash, but most of all to tell others a particularly interesting story.

So it was, on Tuesday evening with photographers' flashes popping aplenty, music playing, lovely girls parading the catwalk and champagne flowing.

It was a gathering of many of the most prominent names in Britain's fashion industry who were celebrating the opening of The Fashion Gallery on the Snibston Discovery Park in Leicester.

Containing the largest collection of fashion clothing outside London's Victoria and Albert Museum, the gallery has taken several years hard work to complete and has been part-funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant of pounds 680,000.

The remainder of the construction and fitting-out costs have been met by the popular high street fashion retailers Next, which has its headquarters in Leicester, the city where entrepreneur George Davies launched the business 23 years ago.

Certainly, Next deserves a big vote of thanks for the unstinting moral, as well as financial, support to establish the gallery, particularly at a time when so many high street retailers are complaining of a down-turn in business affecting their profits.

The gallery's curator, Philip Warren, has done a magnificent job in gathering together some 22,000 items which illustrate the British fashion scene throughout the ages, a collection which also incorporates the Next organisation's own archive containing items which go back to 1982.

Mr Warren's display, however, covers a much longer time span, starting as far back as the 1750s and exhibits range from 1907 right up to this year's Spring and Summer collections. …