Windrush Collection in the Museum of London

Windrush Collection in the Museum of London

An outfit from my graduate 'Windrush Collection' has been acquired by The Museum of London!

The outfit that was designed as part of my graduate collection in 2018, and displayed at Graduate Fashion Week, references the stories of the Windrush Generation and in particular the story of my granddad, Lazare Sylvestre, who arrived in the UK from St. Lucia in 1958.

Image of an outfit from Tihara Smith's Windrush Collection with raffia vest and denim culottes.

Along with an ensemble from my collection, the Museum of London has also acquired a suit owned by my Grandad and oral histories recorded by my granddad, my mum and me. These have all been made available to explore on the Museum of London website to mark Windrush Day 2021.

The key references of my graduate collection included the traditional crafts of the Caribbean, the West Indian front room and the work of photographers who documented the Black British experience from 1948 onwards, including Raphael Albert, Colin Jones, and Neil Kenlock, who famously photographed the British Black Panther Party. You can read more about the inspiration behind the Windrush Collection here.

These influences and inspirations can be seen throughout the designs that are now part of the Museum of London's collection. particularly on the raffia vest hand embroidered with the words ‘Black and British’, accompanied by a Black Power fist and the red lion symbol of England. The vest is paired with a shirt made from a vinyl tablecloth purchased in Peckham Market, reminiscent of the decor seen in West Indian front rooms, and flared 1970s style denim culottes. Together, these details, within the wider context of the collection, are representative of the experience of my Granddad, and so many other Black British Londoners at that time.

Image of Black and British vest print in a white frame on a table

My granddad's suit which was also acquired by the museum, was designed and made for him by a close friend Winceslas ‘Winston’ Giscombe, a tailor originally from Kingston, Jamaica who came to the UK in 1947 on a ship called the Ormonde, a year before the Windrush arrived in 1948.

I am so excited to have an outfit from my graduate collection now part of the Museum of London collection. My granddad has always been an inspiration to me, and I'm so pleased that his suit and his stories have been recorded in history and can be used by future generations to learn more about Black British history.

My vision for the collection was to share the story of the Windrush Generation, celebrate the Caribbean and to put a positive spin on the negative Windrush coverage that dominated the news in 2018. I wanted to share the incredible contributions that people like my grandfather and Winston made to our city in a unique and personal way. I’m so pleased that my work will play a part in telling all of our stories to Museum of London visitors for years to come.

A huge thank you to Lucie Whitmore (Curator of Fashion at the Museum of London) and Rianna Norbert-David (Assistant Curator at the Museum of London) for acquiring the pieces from my Granddad and myself and recording our stories for Museum of London visitors to enjoy.

The museum's photographs of my designs and my granddad's suit (made by Winston Giscombe) along with our oral histories are available to explore on the Museum of London website to mark Windrush Day 2021.

The outfit from my Windrush Collection acquired by the museum is planned for display in the museum’s future new home in West Smithfield as part of an exhibit showcasing the creativity of London's fashion.

You can also discover even more never-heard-before stories on the Windrush Stories page on the Museum of London Docklands website.

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