I think I may have already said this here, but what first brought me to fashion was art and more precisely decorative arts and architecture. I was indeed specialized in History of Architecture and Decoratives Arts while I was studying at l’Ecole du Louvre and it is total art movements such as the Bauhaus, Art Nouveau, Wiener Werkstatte…that led me to fashion. Since, I have always tended to consider the relationships art and fashion have developed, should it be through inspiration, commercial and economic links, sponsorship…So when I read about the Villa Noailles’ exhibition, Archimode, I truly wanted to write about it here although I did not (and won’t) get the chance to visit it as the Villa Noailles is situated in the south of France, at Hyères, where unfortunately, I haven’t planned any future trip. Many of you may know the Villa Noailles as a major actor of Hyères Fashion and Photography Festival that attracts a trendy and influential crowd every year.
Archimode tends to explore the analogies between architecture and fashion by concentrating on six essential examples such as Chanel’s Mobile Art conceived by Zaha Hadid, the Prada Transformer concept imagined by Rem Koolhaas, the LVMH New York tower built by Christian de Portzamparc, the Isabel Marant and Kris Van Assche shops designed by Cigue and finally, the installations by les Diplomates for Damir Doma’s. With the help of numerous photographies, videos, drawings, material…the display provides many tools that enable visitors to comprehend how architects and interior designers build the identity and “soul” of a brand while they highlight strong conceptual elements that install those architectural projects not only as commercial venues but also as creative approaches, just as reflective as the garments sold and presented within. Interactions between architecture and fashion go way beyond the sole building, it is the design and scenography that help complete the fashion designer’s inventive process. Some architectural projects are more minimalistic than others and tend to help bring the attention on the fashion pieces only while others bring a whole new highlight, launching brands within a new dimension just as Chanel that from traditional and historical fashion house has become a futuristic concept with the help of Zaha Hadid’s UFO-like itinerant exhibition space. And yet, Karl Lagerfeld simply maintained the house’s relationship with avant-garde when Gabrielle Chanel herself had collaborated with Jean Cocteau and Pablo Picasso.
Prada’s Transformer, installed in Seoul and dismantled in 2009, featured four different sides that could be positioned in various ways depending on the use of the space: an exhibition, a film festival, a fashion show…: one unique building for different purposes and thus different identities. Muccia Prada is renowned for her interest in contemporary art, in all kind of visual and artistic disciplines and she has collaborated many times with the architect Rem Koolhaas. With Transfomer, she wished to unite and yet distinctly separate arts – proving once again that Prada’s intention is not to be considered as a fashion brand only but also as a veritable actor of the contemporary artistic world, a partner that organizes cross-disciplinary shows and calls upon architecture to enhance its conceptual identity.
Cigue is an interesting architectural agency that privileges minimalist and sculptural interiors that always respond to the aesthetic of the fashion designers it works with. While Kris Van Assche’s Parisian boutique privileges geometric and sharp contrasts, Isabel Marant’s stores feature warm woods and sleek crafted-like shapes that evoke Asian characters and French designers such as Jean Prouvé and Charlotte Perriand. Finally the French collective, Les Diplomates, has engaged a fruitful association with the fashion designer Damir Doma – imagining dark and mysterious installations for his fashion shows or installations within concept stores such as London’s Dover Street Market. In this case, more than an architectural encounter, comes alive a common and hybrid reflection on creation, an ideal chaotic setting that closely discusses with the occult garments of the designer.
Thus fashion designers, architects and also artists in general walk hand in hand in their creative processes. When they collaborate it is to better fuel their imagination, stimulate their inspiration…Architects and fashion designers find similarities in their discipline: they all build and have to think of the place of the human body and its environment within their designs- Hussein Chalayan likes to repeat how much ‘fashion is the architecture of the body’. And of course, when fashion designers collaborate with architects, they also find a way of being considered for something else than just ‘frivolous’ things such as fashion. With architecture, fashion enters the secluded world of art.
I would be incapable of telling you if the Villa Noailles that is itself such a brilliant example of an ‘archimode’ concept – that avant garde design of Mallet-Stevens that now houses fashion events – exhibition is successful in its discourse but I can tell you how much I appreciate its theme.
Castets, Simon. Louis Vuitton: Art, Mode et Architecture. Paris: Editions de la Marinière, 2009.
Hodge, Brooke. Skin + Bones: Parallel Practices in Fashion and Architecture. London: Thames & Hudson, 2006.
Quinn, Bradley. The Fashion of Architecture. New York: Berg, 2003.