When Fashion Meets Architecture

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Thursday, September 3rd, 2015
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Fashion designers are stepping off the runway and into the built environment, putting both their design flair and money behind architecture.

Fashion designers regularly collaborate with architects in designing retail interiors or co-creating couture hotels such as the Armani hotel in Dubai or Palazzo Versace on Australia’s own Gold Coast. However the collaboration opportunities are becoming more varied from project funding to clothing design collaborations.

Italy is certainly receiving a helping hand of late with an array of fashion designers making significant investments towards iconic architectural projects.

FENDI has put more than a few coins into five of Rome’s beloved fountain restorations, including the Trevi Fountain – €2.5 million to be exact.

Trevi Fountain Restoration
Trevi Fountain restoration

Diesel has invested €5.5 million toward restoring and maintaining Venice’s Rialto Bridge, which was built in the 16th century.

Italian leather goods company, Tods S.p.A. CEO Diego Della Valle has pledged $33 million toward the Colosseum.

“In Italy, the culture issue is very urgent,” Della Valle told Forbes of the company’s investment last year. “Over 50% of the world’s cultural heritage is in our country, but more than often it is left to decay. Besides being an important economic resource, we have the duty to protect this heritage for everyone.”

However it’s not all restorations. Over in New York, The Hudson River Park Trust (HRPT) and The Diller – von Furstenberg Family Foundation are teaming up on Pier55 – an approved proposal of a new floating public park.

A vision of New York's Floating Park

A vision of New York’s floating park

The 2.7-acre pier will see the Diller-von Furstenberg family pledge more than $113 million to build and maintain the park according to Capital New York.

“New York has always reminded me of Venice, so I am happy the time has come to properly honour its waterways,” said Diane von Furstenberg. “What better than a park on the city’s western bank to rest, watch a sunset or a performance?”

Then there are the runway items: clothes, shoes and jewellery.

Starchitect Zaha Hadid is regularly known for her shoe collaborations with United Nude, Melissa, Lacoste and most recently with Pharell Williams for Adidas.

With Adidas, Hadid’s architectural signature of fluidity and modern geometrics will be moulded into the shell toe of the company’s Superstar sneaker.

Hadid has also developed fine jewellery for Atelier Swarovski and a bag for FENDI.

Even Frank Gehry has lent his design to the fashion industry, working with J.M Weston to design a pair of six-buttoned black and white leather boots for the company’s AW09 collection.

Frank Gehry's Shoe Collaboration with J.M Weston

Frank Gehry’s shoe collaboration with J.M Weston

“Architects create brand names now, it’s useful to
 commercial industry to associate with those names in the same way they
do with movie stars,” Gehry said. “Purists out there probably find the idea of my 
designing a shoe abhorrent, but I don’t know why. We’re going back to
 the Renaissance model, in which artists could work in any discipline.”

Gehry has leaned on a common creative prompt – inspiration from all mediums.

Just last month, architecture firm Elenberg Fraser unveiled a Melbourne skyscraper design inspired by the “curves” of pop star Beyonce from a particular music video as another example.

In 2013, fashion designer Joseph Altuzarra told Architizer exactly why the two mediums can co-exist in his world.

“Part of the reason why I am drawn to architecture is because it deals with a lot of the same concerns that I deal with in clothing,” he said. “You have an art form that is very left brain-right brain and [that] has to balance aesthetic considerations with more formal pragmatic considerations. And you’re constantly thinking about how what you’re designing is interacting or living with the human body.”

Fashion can be as proportional, tailored and structured just like a building. A great example is French fashion brand, Dice Kayek which is renowned for its architectural clothing silhouettes.

In December 2013, Dice Kayek was announced the first fashion house ever to win the prestigious Jameel Prize, an international award for contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic tradition bestowed by the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

The Jameel Prize winning collection “Istanbul Contrast” extracts the essence of Istanbul’s immense historical, architectural and cultural heritage and translates its past splendour as well as its contemporary dynamism into sculptural garments.

Architecturally inspired fashion by Dice Kayek ©Victoria and Albert Museum

Architecturally inspired fashion by Dice Kayek ©Victoria and Albert Museum

Looking back, even the late Gianfranco Ferré and Pierre Balmain both had degrees in architecture, with Ferré renowned as the architect of fashion and Balmain describing dressmaking as “the architecture of movement.”

So while the two industries may be heavily collaborating in recent years, the relationship between fashion and architecture has been a long one.

For fashion consumers, today’s rising desire for quality and considered tailoring that sees clothing and accessories last for longer than a season could see architects offering more insight.

In contrast, perhaps fashion designers could bring some creative inspiration to buildings and open spaces helping bring style to our cities.

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