Coco Chanel once said: “Fashion is architecture; it is a matter of proportions”. And she was right.
Even though architecture can be misconceived as just designing buildings, architects are often able to extract the principles of design and take them successfully to many other fields. Here is a list of well-known architects who, just like the great Chanel proposed, have applied their knowledge on the industry of fashion design.
Here is a list of architects who pursued fashion designing earlier
This early 60s’ group of architects are almost accidental pioneers in the matter. Why? Because they were not even trying. At least, they were not trying to create fashion as such.
Architecture is a way of art on a big enough scale to live in. Fashion is equally art, on a scale that allows it to be worn. Could a living space, therefore, be reduced down to a wearable scale? Two famous Archigram utopic proposals, the Suitaloon, and the Cushicle, were the first known approaches of architectural design to the world of fashion.
2. HERZOG & DE MEURON
The Swiss-based firm was invited to take part in the Prada show for their Fall-Winter collection in 2018. And, this time, their collaboration would be way smaller than the headquarters, fitting in the very catwalk instead.
As for their proposal, they decided to know what architects know best: use design as a statement. With an architect-like monochromatic aesthetics and a practical form, the two architects found inspiration in the unreliable media, using a printed pattern of “fake news” words to claim their opinion: “written text has lost its credibility when printed in newspapers and magazines. We don’t trust it anymore”, they said.
3. REM KOOLHAS
The OMA starchitect was also invited to take part in the show from the Italian brand that year, and Koolhas, always a critical thinker, reinvented the backpack for the firm.
Again black and sober (seems like architects can’t miss a chance to use this color), Koolhas focused his design into utility and the contemporary landscape. For this reason, he proposed a piece to wear on the front, easily accessible and full of compartments designed specifically for certain devices, just like a room in a house could be shaped according to the user’s needs.
But, unlike it is the case with other architects in this list, this wasn’t Rem Koolhas’ first approach to fashion. He has always been keen on it. More specifically, on footwear. He has created his brand: United Nude.
As an architect, he’s applied the whole research and theoretical basis into the company, creating contemporary pieces that, more than simple shoes, are the result of advanced high-tech experimentation: 3D printing is being explored as a key tool to develop these designs.
4. ZAHA HADID
It is said that, since they met, both Zaha Hadid and Rem Koolhas have shared their love for shoes. It is not surprising then that the two of them ended up collaborating in a project for Koolhas’ brand: the Iraqui architect created the NOVA shoe for United Nude.
According to the brand’s principle, and also to the curvy style of the late architect, many technological techniques were applied to the design of this piece: from vacuum forming to rotating molds to allow freedom of movement of each layer. The result is Zaha Hadid’s signature taken down to a footwear scale, as balanced and innovative as everything she has ever done.
But such a renowned architect couldn’t have only collaborated with one brand. Throughout her lifetime, she collaborated with some of the top world-famous fashion brands, such as Luis Vuitton or Bvlgari.
Amongst all these designs, the one she created with Sally Perrin is noticeable. On this occasion, she was not in charge of the whole bag: understanding the many different levels of design, the starchitect applied her signature to just one detail, the handles. Because fashion, just like architecture, breaks down into minimal parts to be designed with maximum care.
5. VIKTORIA LYTRA
Having mentioned some of the most popular architects nowadays, it is time to talk about their masterpieces. Because, if architects can create fashion out of applying architectural principles and techniques, they can also recreate buildings in a wearable shape: Greek architect Viktoria Lytra is the best example of this.
Although this may look simple at first, there is a great research process and technique behind the final production, to achieve a wearable reinterpretation of all traditionally solid and rigid architecture materials.
With a more literal intention, Lytra immortalizes some of the most iconic buildings in the world and addresses the big architectural question “what follows what”, introducing fashion as a new element in the composition. Her collection FormFollowsFashion finds whatever technique or material may be necessary to recreate the essence of a building as a dress, then presenting a contrasting collage of both pieces together.
6. PIERRE BALMAIN
What is Pierre Balmain, a professional fashion designer who dedicated his whole life to the industry of fashion and not architecture, doing in this list? The answer is simple: if architects can put their minds to work on that temporarily, they might as well do it for a living.
Balmain, who got to own one of the classiest fashion firms ever, started at an architecture school in Paris. Even though he didn’t take long to realize what his true passion was, he never let what he learned aside, and he always tried to apply architectural principles into his designs, treating the fabric as a construction material and seeking for a fluid movement of it not only in the design but also in the production.
So Coco Channel was not wrong, but time and new technologies have proved that, in addition to proportion, also critical thinking, experimentation and construction are architectural principles that can be extrapolated to fashion design.