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Fashion History Museum set to reopen in Cambridge

As the only fashion history museum in Canada, it is set to reopen on Dec. 1 since closing its doors due to the pandemic almost two years ago.

The Fashion History Museum in Cambridge is a place ‘where history is always in fashion.'

As the only fashion history museum in Canada, it is set to reopen on Dec. 1 since closing its doors due to the pandemic almost two years ago. 

“We are so excited to reopen. People are ready to get back out there,” said Jonathan Walford, co-founder, and curatorial director at the Fashion History Museum.

“We took the opportunity while closed to renovate. In some ways I am grateful for the downtime, to find our what works and what doesn’t. It’s also given us time to figure out what the public really wants,” Walford said.

“Being closed has actually been a benefit. We are now coming back with a clear vision and a five-year plan.”

There is much to see as the Fashion History Museum presents four new exhibitions for those craving a mix of art, fashion, and history.

From “The House of Dior” to “Fashioning Canada Since 1867”, people have been able to view digital presentations of past exhibitions during the pandemic. But for Walford, nothing beats being able to view the exhibitions, in person.

“There’s something from every period,” said Walford.

Exhibitions include, Fashion, Music and Teenage Culture (1920-2020), 300 Years of Fashion – Frock On, Fibre to Fashion, and Specs Appeal: A History of Eyewear.

Walford said clothing serves as a necessity as well as an expression of culture.

“The interesting part of fashion is that we all need it and wear it. It’s how you relate to fashion that can have great meaning. Clothing comes with great stories and sentimentality. People relate to their past and have connections with certain items of clothing,” Walford said.

“Our angle on fashion history is also about the business of fashion what was worn, what people bought, and the successes of fashion.”

According to the Fashion History Museum, fashion always responds to changes in technology, taste, the economy, and social mores.

Walford co-founded the museum with his partner Kenn Norman. Both have extensive experience in the world of fashion including independent curatorial work and in the development of travelling exhibitions. Walford has authored works on fashion history and the pair have also worked as dealers and appraisers of antique and vintage clothing.

Many of their best fashion discoveries have been in collections around the world until they were able to find a permanent home in Cambridge.

“We are happy to be here in Cambridge. Industry was huge in this area in the 19th century where textile and clothing production were leading industries. It was like the ‘Manchester’ of Canada,” Walford said.

“We thought this was the right location in terms of population and it is close to Toronto.”

From ‘inception to production,' the history of fashion is a story that the Fashion History Museum wants to tell.

The non-for-profit organization is located at the old post office in Hespeler, built in 1928.

With grants from the Region of Waterloo, the City of Cambridge, and with private fundraising, the museum space was renovated and officially opened its doors in 2016.

“We are thankful for all of the grants we have received and to be in this building, which is now a heritage building,” Walford said.

With over 10,000 pieces, the museum’s collection spans five centuries including 19th and 20th century French, British, American, and Canadian clothing and accessories.

The Fashion History Museum invites anyone to be a member.

“You can become a member online and you will receive a year-long admission card. These memberships help with museum operations. This is what keeps us going and helps us plan for the future,” Walford said.

“We’ve held various events where people have come from across Canada. People are really happy to support us.”

Plans are currently in the works to expand programming at the museum.

The Fashion History Museum encourages engagement, a place to provoke discussion about the meaning and value of fashion.

“We are looking at offering regular programming, including lectures, workshops, tours, and talks. The community can come out, talk, join a club, read a book, or see a film. We want this to be a place where there is always something going on,” Walford said.

“We are all so tired of the pandemic. It’s great to see local tourism making a comeback, and to see restaurants and theatres reopening. We are so excited to be part of all of that and we can’t wait to catch the first wave of people to come in.”

In keeping with COVID protocols, the museum requires proof of double vaccination. All visitors must wear a mask and practice social distancing.

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Barbara Latkowski

About the Author: Barbara Latkowski

Barbara graduated with a Masters degree in Journalism from Western University and has covered politics, arts and entertainment, health, education, sports, courts, social justice, and issues that matter to the community
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