As a child growing up in the 1980s, I was lucky to live in bustling and trendy Camden Town, in the heart of London. Our house was just around the corner from the shop Swanky Modes, opened in 1974 by Esme Young, Willie Walters and Melanie Langer selling their own designs. I remember my parents going there and me thinking that this was a place for grown up clothing but not the kind you might find at Laura Ashley or Nicole Farhi. I recall my dad pointing out a house nearby, telling me that the fashion photographer Niall McInerney lived there. Little did I know then that this was no coincidence, given that McInerney’s girlfriend was one of the founding members of Swanky Modes. But, it was also the moment when, according to a recent interview with him, that he decided to focus on fashion runway photography, going on to capture the last four decades of the twentieth century with his ever present lens.
Up until recently, his work would only have been accessible via magazines in fashion libraries and archives. However, now, with the support of Bloomsbury Fashion Central, his images are available online as part of the recently launched Fashion Photography Archive, a fantastic collection of more than 600,000 images covering the last three decades of the twentieth century. The editor in chief Valerie Steele describes the collection as an “incredible way to go back in time and remind yourself of all the amazing fashions and visual fashion moments there were” . While the main focus is runway, there are also images capturing backstage and street style over the same period. Bloomsbury Fashion Central has just won the FutureBook award for best digital reference/education project of the year, which includes Berg Fashion Library and Fairchild Books Library as well as the Fashion Photography Archive.
A subscription to the archive includes access to much more than just the images, even though these in of themselves are an incredibly rich resource. There are 200 specially commissioned articles that provide related content covering a wide range of starting points for your own research from colour and garment type to designer and subcultural style. What I also love about the resource is the layout, which clearly shows you the image with details categorised to the left, many of which you can click on to access related content. Contributors include experts from the world of fashion and dress academia. This includes Worn Through’s founder Monica Sklar, who was commissioned to write an article on Punk. I also had the pleasure of contributing some small pieces on colour to this project which I’ve enjoyed working with as well as having access to these beautiful digitized sources.
Bloomsbury Fashion Photography Archive launched on 24 October with a core collection of 150,000 images and 150 biographies of key designers. Details on how to subscribe as both an individual and an institution can be found here
Featured Image Credit: Linda Evangelista for Anna Sui A/W 1993 Bloomsbury Fashion Photography Archive
 Bloomsbury Fashion Photography Archive [Accessed 4 December 2016]