The term ‘Architect’ can be open to interpretation much like the reverence of an Artist. However, the universally recognized definition of the role is regarded as one who designs and plans buildings, a key member in terms of building construction. Architecture as a profession presents itself as a very diverse occupation. As an Art and Science in every sense, it offers insight into a vast range of subjects that can be applied to a range of different ventures.
Often Architecture students are offered with such a rigid path, constrained with these short-sighted ideas that an Architect must follow a particular direction to flourish in the field. When in fact it is interesting to note the vast opportunities that arise when given opportunity to diversify. Here are the Architects that have branched out and become successful fashion designers …
The fashion and Architecture world is steeped in design parallels. Both concentrate on the idea of construction; upon very different subjects yet prioritize form and occupant comfort. As Coco Chanel once said ‘Fashion is Architecture, it’s a question of proportions’. As artisans they seek to translate their own visions through texture, color and shape. The ultimate objective being beauty and durability, an output that continues to evolve and challenge the status quo.
The interrelationship between the two fixates on the idea of problem solving. There is an outstanding problem or brief that the designer must respond to. They then depict this design idea through means of drawing and planning, then reflecting upon the work to identify if it meets the requirements of the client. Both provide shelter for the human body, in a large and small-scale sense.
Fashion presents itself as frivolous and dynamic in nature, whereas Architecture is more rigid in its permanence. Fashion can be fleeting, yet often inspires Architectural thought and vice versa. The boundaries between the disciplines begin to blur as we compare them, suggesting how these multidisciplinary figures have materialized
1. Virgil Abloh
Perhaps the most notable Architect turned fashion designer is the late creative director of Louis Vuitton Virgil Abloh, who initially held a Masters degree in Civil Engineering and Architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology before transitioning into the world of fashion design. Here he was inspired by the work of the Bauhaus movement, converging elements of art, craft and design into one practice.
‘Young Architects can change the world by not building buildings’ – Virgil Abloh
His words speak depth. Throughout his career he explored the ties between the fashion and Architecture world, often referencing architectural discourse in his explorative works. The collection Efflorescence for Galerie Kreo in Paris, 2019 was heavily inspired by Brutalism, presenting heavy concrete blocks wrapped in street art. It was regarded by the gallery as "a landscape where the rigidity of structures and urban planning meets the randomness of organic growth, human appropriation, and mark-making."
2. Pierre Balmain
Prior to his success upon establishing the fashion house Balmain, Pierre Balmain initially began studying Architecture at the École des Beaux-Arts in 1933. He later found himself enamored with Haute Couture, abandoning the profession for an alternative path in design.
‘‘Dressmaking is the Architecture of movement’’- Pierre Balmain
Despite renouncing Architectural training he continued to be heavily influenced by architectural form and design thinking, visualizing the creation of the dress as construction. He resembled this to the creation of buildings themselves, offering form, function and beauty. As an immense post-war influence during the rise of Hollywood, he continued to challenge the boundaries of glamorous and classical fashion, proclaiming that dressmaking must offer fluidity for it is kinetic architecture of the body.
3. Tom Ford
Tom Ford, former creative director of the luxurious fashion house Gucci, is celebrated for reinventing the label into a provocative and popular line. Founding his own label Tom Ford in 2004 and experimenting with film direction it is not surprising to note his background in Architectural education, studying Interior Architecture at the Parsons School of Design in New York. During his last year of study he was awakened to his true calling and entered the world of fashion design upon graduation. Using design skills from his Architectural training he siphoned Gucci from the ashes, saving the label from its downfall during the 1990’s.
"I just woke up one morning and thought, 'What am I doing?' Architecture was just way too ... serious. I mean, every architectural project I ever did, I worked a dress into it somehow. So I realized that fashion was the right balance between art and commerce, and that was it." – Tom Ford
4. Gianni Versace
Specializing in Architectural drafting before moving onto a turbulent and successful career in fashion, the late Gianni Versace is noted for his Architectural influence, drawing heavy inspiration from Ancient Greek and Roman stylisation, immersing his designs in intricate borders and patterns inspired by mosaics and various sources of ancient Art. A reflection of his interest can be seen in the iconic Versace Medusa, prevalent on much of his work and the Versace mansion, ‘Casa Casuarina’, built in keeping with the Mediterranean Revival style.
‘’I think it’s the responsibility of the designer to try to break rules and barriers’ – Gianni Versace
As an innovative icon, his works include metal garments in collaboration with German engineers, creating the infamous mesh ‘Oroton’ material still popular with the brand today. Versace continued to create inventive and cutting-edge techniques, including the bonding of leather to rubber with the use of lasers, before his murder in 1997.
5. Thierry Mugler & Casey Cadwallader
Manfred Thierry Mugler once said ‘’ I am an Architect who completely reinvents a woman’s body’’. Renowned for his architectural approach towards the language of fashion, his defining work is his hyper-feminized haute couture. Studying Architecture briefly before his transition into fashion the House of Mugler continues to adopt an architectural approach in terms of design and inspiration.
Casey Cadwallader the latest creative director of the brand, much like he founder himself studied Architecture before finding himself in fashion, obtaining an Architecture degree from Cornell University, New York. Building upon Mugler’s legacy, Cadwallader continues to seek inspiration via architectural precedence, including Architect Francesco Borromini’s 17th century works as a catalyst for innovative new ideas.
Perhaps an unorthodox approach to the study of fashion, the study of Architecture continues to inspire and produce many multidisciplinary designers who transition into a range of different disciplines, may this be Furniture design, interior design, product design and a vast number of other factions. These designers continue to inspire each other, Architecture influencing fashion, fashion influencing interior design and so on. There are no longer boundaries between creatives, the creative can be malleable.
This article is part of the ArchDaily Topics: Architecture Without Buildings. Every month we explore a topic in-depth through articles, interviews, news, and projects. Learn more about our ArchDaily topics. As always, at ArchDaily we welcome the contributions of our readers; if you want to submit an article or project, contact us.