The Zandra Rhodes ‘Style Bibles’ had been highlighted as a great source of contextual information to support the photographs of the garments already being taken for the project. The bibles were created and referred to by Zandra Rhodes and her staff from when her first garments were designed in the 1960s to the present day – year by year, season by season, fifteen bibles altogether – comprising over 1800 pages of hand drawn and detailed sketches of the garments each identified by a unique style number.
The Style Bibles are a unique resource and not allowed to leave the studio building in Bermondsey in London, so the Zandra Rhodes digitisation project required us to go mobile! Having established our University’s new Digitisation Unit and all its precious scanning equipment in the bowels of the UCA Library in Farnham in Surrey just six months earlier, we found ourselves mutating (pixelating?) to fit our users’ needs already!
We assessed the route in advance – we recced the building, the pavements, the lifts. Having been amazed at the wonderment of the frenetic and vibrant working fashion studio, we quickly sought alternative space in which to work. The threads, needles, mannequins, and fashionistas would serve as a wonderful back-drop – but the route, space, and photography that was already taking place in the studio – meant that we needed an additional area for scanning.
We hatched a plan. Space was allocated to us for digitising the Style Bibles in the neighbouring Fashion & Textile Museum (FTM) and we liaised over dates and settled upon 19th & 20th April. Congestion charge tickets and insurance in place, we bundled our huge 20kg scanner into the car alongside laptops, external hard drives and DVDs, and set off up the A3.
The workflow imperative was simple: keep the scanner scanning at all times. We had a lot to get through. On the day it took us two to three hours to finalise our set-up. Despite thorough prep, you can never pre-empt these things! Thence followed twenty solid hours of uninterrupted digital capture, scanning a total of 1800+ individual sheets of paper. The spec included: TIFF file format, 300 dpi images, constant back-up and quality control.
We afforded each other a brief break for air on day one: just enough time to experience the sharpness of the Shard and return to take cover in the FTM. Day two deemed such exploration a luxury. And finally we left the building with: two laptops, one hard-drive, sixteen DVDs, and 200 GB of data. Job done. Apart from the small task of post-production!