One of the more recent collections to go onto our catalogue is that of former GSA student and knitwear designer CA Wallace Shaw. The collection was catalogued by summer intern student Jessie Campbell, and Jessie tells us here about his life and work.
One of the most intriguing things about working within an archive is delving into a world you haven’t seen before, or didn’t know about previously. Last year, I had the immense privilege of experiencing life through the lens of Wallace Shaw, a fashion designer and former GSA student. Shaw’s collection is an illuminating display of his talent, having had a colourful career across the world working for well-known fashion brands such as Pringle of Scotland and Donna Karan International.
The newly catalogued collection traces most of Shaw’s life, career, and interests through his entire life. A pull to the arts can be seen from an early age, with letters from 1957 noting Shaw’s involvement in a summer camp for talented young artists. Shortly after, Shaw would come to study at the Glasgow School of Art, where he studied interior design and gained his diploma in 1961 (DC 114/1/2). However, his passion would lie in fashion design, and as a talented and successful student he was headhunted by Pringle of Scotland to join their team as a knitwear designer.
Photo of Pringle Designs, Gala Show 1968 (DC 114/2/1/1)
Based in Hawick, Scotland, Pringle of Scotland was a prestigious heritage brand with international acclaim – an impressive move for a fresh graduate. The online collection includes memories of Wallace’s work at Pringle through the 1960s and 70s, including photographs, annuals, and newsletter that give an insight into both his design career and the success of the brand. Throughout his life, Wallace appears to have kept a strong connection with the brand that picked him out as a student; he donated various garments to the Pringle of Scotland Archive Project Exhibition at London Fashion Week 2011 (DC 114/2/1/6), visited the Hawick Exhibition 2011 (DC 114/2/2/11), and the ‘Inventors of Tradition’ Exhibition on Scottish Knitwear in 2011 (DC 114/6/2/23).
After his tenure at Pringle, Shaw would go on to work for several other well-known fashion brands as a designer. Initially he would hold the post of Design Director at Braemar International; the personal keepsakes of this post amount to a sizeable archive of the collections and output of Braemar International through the 1970s and 80s. A move to New York would symbolise a shift in Shaw’s career towards high fashion brands. In the late 1980s and early 1990s he would take up a post in Donna Karan International’s new menswear team. The designs at this stage in his career become markedly modern. The collection from this period infers a sense of pride over his work, with various keepsakes of newspaper clippings, catalogues, and fashion show images held in the collection. In the later years of his career, he would work in Asia for Fornton Knitting Company. A lot of the garments, samples, and swatches are documented extensively on CDs, making them readily accessible. Paired with his personal sketchbooks (DC 114/7/1/1 and DC 114/7/1/2), the collection builds up a clear insight into Shaw’s creative process.
Braemar International Catalogue Holiday-Spring 1989 (DC 114/4/1/12)
In his later years, Shaw retraced his steps back to his studies at GSA, taking on two major interior design projects. In both Italy and Edinburgh, he opened ‘Wallace’s Arthouse’, B and B’s which had an emphasis on design, art and lifestyle, curated by Shaw. Housed in restored buildings, Shaw paired a modern minimalist approach to design with the work of young artists which he sought to promote. Reviews of the Arthouse paint Shaw to be a charismatic host, with guests recalling evenings spent drinking wine whilst listening to the incredible stories from their host recounting his career as a fashion designer across the world.
Shaw sadly passed away at the age of 80, in Edinburgh. Following his deep affection and high regard for the Glasgow School of Art, its staff, and its students, a variety of materials relating to his career were donated by relatives, and now make up the Wallace Shaw collection available on the GSA Archives and Collections online catalogue (https://gsaarchives.net/catalogue/index.php/dc-114). Working with this collection has been a delight; the collection travels through his whole life, so getting to see the memories of his career so intimately has allowed me to build up a picture of a passionate and committed artist and designer. Shaw had created his own personal archive of his career through photographs, printed ephemera, and designs, so it was a joy to be able to be catalogue it.
Portrait of CA Wallace Shaw, undated (DC 114/6/1/3)