Coco Chanel famously said that “fashion is architecture: it is a matter of proportions.” As with most things the iconic designer said or did, it wasn’t long before the world followed her lead.
Classic designers like Versace, Balmain and Cardin all studied architecture before changing to fashion, while legendary architects like Zaha Hadid and Frank Gehry have taken time off from creating buildings to work on jewelry and bags. There’s a complex interaction between the design elements required in both architecture and fashion, so it’s not shocking that so many creatives have tried their hand at both. Here’s our pick of the top times architecture inspired fashion:
Known for her feminine structured garments, the designer was influenced by an unlikely place for her Fall/Winter 2015 collection: a cemetery. “We were inspired by the Brion Cemetery by Italian architect Carlo Scarpa near Treviso, Italy,” Assoulin says. She told the several angles and lines, triangles, squares, and rectangles, are incredible blending harmoniously.
The dichotomy of hard and soft found at Chloé evolved from creative director Clare Waight Keller’s fascination with Islamic architecture, the infinite patterns that is very common in the Middle East. The influence can be seen in lacework and repeating motifs. “In my Summer 2016 collection, I created a series of pieces made up of elements of exaggerated details from Arabesque architecture,” she says, “working the proportions on a larger scale and piecing them together to create edges and straps and to frame dresses and tops.”
Creative director Josep Font conceived a beautiful geometric set for the Fall/Winter 2016 runway show. The Art Deco architecture and Expressionism in the 1927 film Metropolis were the inspiration not only for the collection but also for the set design. “The color palette, the metallic feel—and in other cases, more abstract influence such as the volume on sleeves and tops”, says Josep.
The Tokyo-based designer has been referencing architectural heavyweights such as the Eames, Frank Gehry, and Gordon Matta-Clark since launching his brand in 2010. For the Spring/Summer 2016 collection, a recording of Gehry speaking about his own inspirations was used as the runway show’s soundtrack. Ezumi explains “I watched the documentary Sketch of Frank Gehry. He was really freely making structures of paper architecture models; it was just like fashion draping, so I did the same design for the collection”.
Known for blending asymmetrical silhouettes and bold colors into eclectic but elegant apparel, the inspiration came from another masterful use of color: the work of Mexican architect Luis Barragán. “I am always drawn to images of his amazingly beautiful home in the suburbs of Mexico City,” admitted the designer. “The house encompasses a perfect mix of precision, light, color, and shadow. This balance evokes a naive modernism that is timeless.”
Women’s wear designer Michelle Smith is influenced by the modern architect Zaha Hadid. “There is something mesmerizing about her work. It’s forward-thinking but organic, with a certain sexiness. There is a clean and sculptural fluidity to Hadid’s work that mirrors the way I design,” says Smith. A heavy cotton fabric was used in the last Spring/Summer 2016 collection to give the sculptural oversize sleeves while maintaining a softness on the other hand, showing the perfect balance achieved in so much of Hadid’s work.
A recent trip to Portugal influenced Lizzy and Darlene Okpo, the sisters behind William Okpo. Struck by the stone walls and narrow stone-paved streets downtown Porto, it was The Church of São Francisco, Chapel of Souls, and Sá da Bandeira that were the main references for their last work. “The entire Church São Francisco is designed in gold and has an abundance of detailing in every biblical sculpture,” says Lizzy. “The church felt infinite”, referring to the details that seem infinite. The brand’s Fall/Winter 2016 collection features an embroidered black-and-white pattern and organza silk that echoes motifs from tiled church floors.
The Italian-Haitian designer regularly draws on her roots, citing Haiti’s gingerbread houses, vibrant colors, and intricate wood façades as sources of architectural inspiration. But it isn’t just about their aesthetics: “I’m particularly inspired by these amazing structures, which are not only architecturally significant but bear in mind the Caribbean climate and its living conditions,” she says.