Inspired by

Mısır-stylised photography and typography on in Egypt from the Turkish periodical Yedigün (Seven Days)
Mısır-stylised photography and typography on in Egypt from the Turkish periodical Yedigün (Seven Days), a lifestyle, current events and fashion magazine targeted at the ‘modern’ Turkish woman in the 1930s (14456.ggg.2).

The British Library holds a wealth of materials, including digital collections, which are used for research and inspiration for fashion students and designers, as well as for artists and other creatives.

We hope these guides will provide an inspirational start for your journey.

Take part

The Library is continuing its successful collaboration with the British Fashion Council. The partnership highlights the importance of research for fashion designers and students, including how the UK national collections can enhance fashion education and business. We hold an annual research-inspired Student Competition. Find out more. 

Case studies

…I use my experience of travel to try and develop something real and honest, and most importantly to create beauty within my design.…

Joint winner of our 2019 fashion competition Victoria Lyons tapped into the resources of the British Library to develop a photographic series on which she modelled a set of fabrics.

…While visiting the British Library in search of inspiration, I found myself fixating on examples of intricacy and intimacy seen throughout the building. …

Joint winner of our 2019 fashion competition Andrew Froud from the University of Brighton took inspiration from the Library’s collections to design his set of textiles.

…Fashion as an art form is a powerful voice and should allow its participants, designers and wearers alike to celebrate life and personality.…

Fashion student Cristiana Alagna from Ravensbourne University used the Library’s photography collections and depictions of 18-19th century clothing to inspire her own set of textiles.

…I was delighted that it was possible to flick through manuscripts, missals and Books of Hours from the past centuries through the British Library’s online catalogue.…

Louise Desoeuvre from Bath Spa University used the British Library to research Renaissance paintings and WW1 photographs to design a garment inspired by religious and military dress.

…My concept was a fashion collection which focused on expressing the beauty of imperfection, lived experience and individuality through textiles.…

Alanna Hilton was the winner of a competition run by the British Fashion Council in collaboration with the British Library and fashion house Teatum Jones to create a fashion portfolio telling a story inspired by the British Library’s collections.

…Elisabeth Nilsson came to the British Library to research prototypes for her autumn/winter Once Upon a Time fashion range, during her final year of a Fashion BA at the University of the Creative Arts in Epsom.…

Elisabeth Nilsson came to the British Library as part of her research for a competition to create a fashion portfolio telling a story inspired by the Library’s collections.

  • Fashion show and tell

    Two Fashion students took a ‘show and tell’ tour led by conservators to learn what inspiration the Library’s collections can offer.

  • Chinese collections

    Our Chinese collections comprise more than 120,000 items, spanning more than 3,000 years of history.

  • European and Americas collections

    The British Library’s diverse and multi-cultural collections from Europe, the Americas and Australasia offer a vast array of explorative potential and inspirational sources for fashion designers and students.

  • Hebrew and Christian Orient collections

    Together, these two major collections comprise manuscripts and printed material from countries in today’s Europe and Middle East, as well as West Asia, from c. 3rd century AD to the present day.

  • Japanese collections

    Our Japanese collections includes around 80,000 Japanese books and 500 manuscripts, covering a wide variety of subjects, materials and formats representing more than 12 centuries of Japanese culture. There is a strong visual component in the collections offering a rich source for artists and designers.

  • Modern archives and manuscripts

    Our collections date from 1601 to 1950 and span a wide variety of subjects, fields of enquiry and expression.

  • Turkish and Turkic collections

    The Turkish and Turkic Collections at the British Library encompass 13 centuries of written history in over 20 languages.