Fashion and Architecture

I recently read the book, The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. A most wonderful piece of literature. While reading the book I was struck by the similarity between fashion and architecture.

Both start with a vision. The bolder the vision, the more spectacular the product. Vision leads to a design or draft, followed by construction and then the final execution.

The model with the grid stockings was like an architectural draft-basic, bare-boned but with a distinct sketched vision. She was a proof ready for the final construction/execution.

In both architecture and fashion it is necessary for the creator to have a well-defined, clear and refined vision. Any paucity in the vision will lead to a poorly constructed final product, not aesthetic, bare, vacant and soulless.

Architecture and fashion have a soul. That is why we get moved when we see the ace examples of either. Why do you think millions gasp in awe after seeing the Coliseum in Rome, the pyramids in Egypt, the Eiffel Tower in Paris or the finely chiseled Ajanta Caves in India. These structures are not only grand in form and size, but have the power to make the viewer reflect into the soul of the architect. One can feel the chapped hands of the chiseler, envision the beads of sweat on the brow of the bricklayer, feel the physical ache of the woodworker. Even after the passage of centuries, one can feel the turmoil and joy of the craftsmen.

It is the same in fashion too. Master Couturiers spend hundreds of hours sewing little pearls on a gown with bent necks, stitch the perfect folds of a coat in the dim lights of the studio and attach the most delicate chiffon ruffles to a sleeve using the minutest needle with strained eyes.

In both instances, the master craftsmen are at work displaying the excellence of their respective trades.

Architecture bleeds into fashion. The similarities are a vision, choice of materials, form, functionality and space. Both utilize a play of light and shadow. Both cater to an ambience. Both need a creator who understands constraint and restraint.

I am sharing with you today my interpretation of my favorite architectural marvels with similar fashion designs. Whether the fashion is inspired by architecture or vice versa, is subject to your interpretation.

The Taj Mahal is the greatest example of Mughal/Persian architecture. It is an ode of Emperor Shah Jahan’s eternal love for his wife Mumtaz Mahal. The structure is deeply rooted in Byzantine history. It was made using the finest white marble, adorned with intricate calligraphy, stone inlays and carvings. The interiors are inlaid with precious gemstones and engraved marble designs. Can you imagine the patience and tenacity required to carve the fine filigree into marble. The structure screams opulence, craftsmanship and decadence. The old wife’s tale goes that the craftsmen who built the Taj Mahal had their hands chopped off such that the structure could not be replicated.

On a lesser draconian level, Chanel’s Byzantine collection reminds me of the opulence of the Taj Mahal. The designs are reminiscent of Mughal/Persian royalty. The finest Couturiers worked on the creation of the garments. The fabric is luxurious, the jeweled embroidery is intricate and the craftsmanship is superlative. There is an element of luxury and richness similar to the Taj Mahal.

The world renowned Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid uses space, light and fluidity in her architectural designs. Her architecture is modern and radical. It is intellectual.There is airiness to her structures. No surprise that she was commissioned by Karl Lagerfeld to construct Mobil Art Chanel Pavilion with a fluid, almost in motion dome.

Zaha Hadid has brought architecture to her fashion designs, imparting the same principles of fluidity and motion.

Burj Khalifa and “High” Fashion

Oh to reach such lofty vertiginous heights!! Burj Khalifa in Dubai is one of the tallest man made structure ever built. It is 160 floors. It is a pinnacle example of the power of human capability. It is amazing to see the machinations of the human brain that went into the planning, designing and construction in order to achieve the perfect balance and alignment.

The Alexander McQueen crab-claw heels are a similar example of an aeronautical design feat. Similar planning went into achieving the perfect balance while maintaining the aesthetic beauty.

St. Basil’s Cathedral and Phantasmic Fashion

St. Basil’s in Russia is the most unique and dazzling example of a juxtaposition of architectural colors, spirals and complexity. It seems hallucinatory. I often describe it as dream-like.

Alexander McQueen’s gown on Lady Gaga evokes similar phantasmagoric feelings of surrealism.

Frank Gehry and Deconstructive Fashion

Famous Los Angeles based architect is the master of contemporary architecture. His style has been defined as Deconstructivism. It does not follow an “Order” per se. One of my favorite Gehry architectures is the Hotel Marques de Riscal in Elciego, Spain. It is a supreme example of deconstruction without the grunge effect. There is an Order sans an order in the conventional sense. I particularly like the mix of metallic colors, especially the olive green and shades of purple to mauve.

Deconstruction is a ubiquitous term used in fashion. However, funny as it may sound, deconstruction needs an order to be aesthetic. Otherwise it looks well, deconstructed!

Again the master craftsman McQueen’s ruffled gown reminds me of Gehry’s work. Deconstructed, but not grunge. An example of patent disorder but latent order!

Frank Lloyd Wright and Volume Fashion

Wright, is yet another phenomenal American architect. His style was organic architecture. He is identified with the prairie homes he designed that are prime examples of open space, unity and continuity. He despised the “boxed” in feeling. There was volume in his architecture.

Jil Sanders beautiful clothes are parallel to Wright’s architecture. Jil Sanders is a perfect example of openness in clothing. There is nothing constricting in the clothes, no “boxed” in feeling. Its continuity in uber style.

Friends, I hope you enjoyed my interpretation of the juxtaposition of fashion and architecture. It is a small respite from pre-fabricated homes and mass produced clothing.