It’s not by accident that when we speak of the future, the art of fashion comes to mind. Fashion alludes to trends. There is also no surprise in how we can always date movie scenes simply from the fashion exhibited. Fashion defines time and introduces new eras.
“the past is not romantic to me … the future is romantic to me”
– Raf Simons, “Dior and I”
But how does it happen in only in fashion?
In fashion, I work with the intimacy between the body and garment, just as in architecture, the user and space. Both encompass the relationship between subject and its wrapper. For the couture shows, I look for the connection between the model, her personality, and the dress. In the house of fashion, the wrapper becomes an extension of the one who wears it; it captures a certain value and lifestyle, hence it is important that I see that connection. The way one holds up her shoulder or chin, or the way she strides, all effect the way each pleat falls and moves. Here, the body fills the voided spaces of the cloths – it is intimate.
I’ve visited one building that captures this same intimacy – the Maison Bourdeaux by the renowned Rem Koolhaas. Here is a space, or rather a void that, like a garment, is incomplete without its wearer or owner. The client of the house, due to an unfortunate accident, became unable to walk and was to be in a wheelchair for the rest of his life. A 12’ by 12’ concrete slab has been removed from the second (main) floor and is attached to a hydraulic elevator mechanism so that the main floor would only be complete when he is in the room. This was ingenious!
However, it is seldom that you feel this connection between its user and space. I think it may be the scale. With clothing, you can feel each stitch between your skin, but with most large office buildings the users can barely feel the seams of concrete along the floors. A big step to influence the future, at least for fashion, is the ability to translate those values, such as liberation or timidness, onto skin, since it is the most intimate. And if architecture were to do the same – find a way to make the building sense the human presence – sense the heat, the perspiration.
Since the debut of Iris Van Herren’s 3D printed fashionwear, many young designers are now working with engineers to produce fashion that responds to the body. No longer does it focus on filling space but rather of feeling space. Designers such as Kristin Neid Linger who designed a headdress that responds to the brain activities, or Shamees Aden who is currently working on engineering a material that would allow a shoe to respond to the support needs of the body as it shifts between activities, or David Eagleman who designed a wearable suit that can translate external information directly to the body via the spine –all are thinking in this new level of intimacy – on a molecular and neurological level. Exciting times ahead!
It seems the trend has only been going more and more rapid as it charges on. I understand that fashion has an advantage over architecture in that the duration of the process is much shorter than that of a building. There are definitely less restrictions and what can and cannot be done, as long as it remains on a body, it would be fine. With buildings, I wouldn’t say the design process is arduously much longer than that in fashion. I think the concept and early thinking is very similar to the one that I experience, however with the added compliance issues, complexities definitely put a big time gap in the process. In 2012, when Raf Simons was appointed as Dior’s creative director, he had only eight weeks to develop all 55 suits and dresses! That’s an impressive schedule even within the fashion industry.
I wonder if it has something to do with the temporality of the product. I’ve also visited Venice a few times for their Biennale and for work and I was amazed at the speed of construction and set up of all of the temporary pavilions. Architecture can also happen overnight. With fashion, we conduct one show and as soon as that’s done, we move on to the next. We don’t dwell to make it perfect for today, next year, or ten. There’s no way to know but to test it! This has always been our mentality. Perhaps architecture can take the same advice. What if a block were a collection of the iterations along the way? Invite users to come and test them. Only then would you make permanent the one that is most successful. Don’t get distracted by the need for perfection and permanence.
For most of the well-established houses such as Dior or Chanel, the focus is less on whom they sell to, but rather on what they sell –the values, the lifestyle, the dream. By doing so, it becomes a form of a date between the client and designer. If, it so happens that, the values of one compliment the other, then there is intercourse. When design is not tailored to one individual, it becomes free to explore.
I have noticed in architecture, most often with large developer projects, it is an arranged marriage. The art of seduction is lost. For fear of losing a job, designers are forced to succumb to demands of the client, and hence values are compromised. The spirit is lost. Perhaps this is something architects can learn from fashion?
 Dior and I. Directed by Frédéric Tcheng. Performed by Raf Simons. 2015.
 Luimstra, Jelmer. “3D Printed Headdress Reflects the States of Your Brain.” 3D Printing. 2014. Accessed February 09, 2016. http://3dprinting.com/fashion/3d-printed-headdress-reflects-states-brain/.