I know you’re wondering if I’m out of my mind. How can I draw parallels between architecture and fashion? One is the art of building and designing spaces, the other is the art of dressing a person. One requires the use of concrete steel sand and bricks, the other is a play with fabric. But stripped down to its technicalities and its true needs, are they really all that different?
Not really, except mostly in scale. Both are forms of art that are rooted in a goal-oriented result with various problem-solving approaches. They each rely on and tend to differ in styles as a response to their immediate surroundings and the general climate. Both forms require the user to not just view but experience their own interpretation. And mastery in both is heavily reliant on the intuitive knowledge of human proportions and the ability to create structurally sound elements.
They say clothes make a man. This is a fairly accurate assumption to make because one of the first impressions we have of a person is based on how they’re dressed. Some people like to stick with basics- classic cuts, neutral colors, and timeless accessories; while others like to keep up with the current trends and make bold choices with their fashion sensibilities. And similarly, a person’s living space also gives a deep insight into his/her personality. Some homes are done up practically, with simple and efficient furniture, and yet there are others who like their spaces lavishly done up with exquisite finishes and expensive features. Like clothes, every building is a reflection of it its owner’s character, their values, and their economic stature.
In Fashion and Architecture it is evident, that beyond the provision of comfort and security, both fashion and architecture are individual expressions shaped by the existing socio-cultural norms within technical limits. Having a good aesthetic sense is a matter of pride-whether it is for an architect or for a fashion designer.
These forms of ‘experiential art’ obviously have an element of human interpretation to them. Different materials can provoke different reactions. What some might find constricting in nature, others might find attention focussing. This statement could be true for garments and spaces! Like any other form of art, the success of a piece of clothing or a building is largely dependent on how it is received by its audience. And these two factors also incite the feeling of awe from other people on the outside. Looking at a building designed by Gehry or Gaudi and looking at the new collection by Louboutin will bring up feelings of “I want to have that!”
As rightly said by Tim Flannery in this interview,
“You see some fabulous person, it’s “The Devil Wears Prada” explanation, someone creates this moment, creates this thing that you’re not used to seeing, and sure enough, you can buy the original and the expensive quality versions; but eventually, if it’s something that speaks to enough people, it’s going to water down to a price level that is mass. I think the same thing happens with architecture”
It is also this FOMO that has led to a rip-off culture. Trends in both industries are very accessible for the general public and therefore in demand to replicate. For example, both fashion and architecture lay emphasis on the “minimalism”. While it looks simple on the front, there is a lot of work that goes in the background of creating that look. In a minimalist fashion look, there are expensive accessories, hours of curating outfits, hair, and makeup looks. In a minimalist house, there are fixtures and materials sourced from different locations, furnishings are curated and the perfect lighting and setting have to be experimented with. It is NOT simply using less material, getting things cheaply made or worse, replicated. The cost of technological innovation cannot be “watered down”.
That being said, the main point of difference between these fields is that development in fashion is quicker than in architecture. This is obvious, mainly because of the vastly different scales on which the fields operate, and the implications of the end products. There are longer planning stages and less chance of on-the-spot changes in architecture, naturally because of the scale and cost involved. There is a greater scramble for spontaneity and deadlines to manage in fashion. While high fashion and architecture both take inspiration from the current trends on the socio-cultural front, architecture is much more affected by the economic and political events of the local region than fashion is.
On a more exciting note, thanks to globalization and fluidity between the art forms, there have been many collaborations between architects and fashion designers. We know that famous fashion houses have sought great architects to design spaces for them (like Gehry for Louis Vuitton [image 3] and Peter Marino for Chanel) Some have also taken architecture as inspiration for their themed collections (Nicolas Ghesquière’s Louis Vuitton Cruise 2020 Collection, which was presented at Eero Saarinen’s TWA Flight Terminal- [image 1,2].) Zaha Hadid has also dabbled with fashion design and collaborated with powerhouses like United Nude, Georg Jensen, Fendi, Melissa, and Bulgari [image 4]. Not only that, but both forms are also embracing innovation that has been a result of 3D printing and virtual reality. Where 3D printing is being used to realize forms and materials that were previously only concepts, both architecture and fashion are evolving to support virtual and augmented reality in the form of responsive design and breathable fabric respectively.