The Genteel
December 13, 2017
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Rick Owens SS11 (Source: nymag.com).

Imagine a large metropolitan city: New York, London or, perhaps, Berlin. Do the structures evoke any feelings? Is the functionality of their exteriors obvious? These lumbering shells of steel, cement and what-have-you are integral to the operation of society, creating an exterior façade for the more sensitive contents within. Oftentimes, the building itself may shape the entities within or posit a rigid criteria to which groups might occupy the space to begin with. However, the inverse is also true, as many companies or individuals shape their visual vessel to portray their persona outwards.

Rick Owens SS11 (Source: models.com)

It is this timeless quality of engineering that keeps the designs of Belgian designer Ann Demeulemeester from going out of style. With a signature men's line dating back to 1996, her drawing board clearly utilizes lines and angles to depict and solidify identifiable structures having classic appeal, while also easily standing out from the crowd. Further emphasizing the dyad of architecture and fashion design, Demeulemeester understands that "the material often dictates the design," regularly causing her to begin with a linen or leather - before creating her templates - much like the architect might have a stockpile or notion of the materials available for a build. Much in the way architecture and the individual perform this delicate dance of influence, so too does architecture seep into the nuances of fashion design, through engineered frameworks and a direct reliance on stark angles. Curled spires of unfinished denim, structured layering of cotton and wool, as well as the positioning of asymmetrical cuts all take their cues - to a certain extent, of course - from the architect. For instance, the work of Demeulemeester has been defined as "idiosyncratic urban-poet architecture," a phrase I find quite fitting for both her work and that of her contemporaries. This fusion of titles is also similar to that of the classical and modern architect, often functioning in multiple capacities to create a finished product.

Rick Owens SS10 (Source: nymag.com).

For infamous Paris-based designer Rick Owens, the love of architectural design runs deep. Frequently questioned about his affinity for the medium, he often draws comparisons to his favorite architect: Carlo Mollino. One would be hard-pressed to identify a better comparison between designers from different mediums, as Owens bases his designs on architectural angles and Mollino utilized the female torso to construct the Teatro Regio (Turin's Royal Theatre). This may also explain why much of the studio, living and shop space Owens inhabits would look right at home housing works by artistically comparable successors to Mollino: individuals such as Tobias Rehberger or Olafur Eliasson. There is perhaps no better example of architecture in apparel design than within the work of Owens. He even goes as far as to claim that "designing clothes is the first step - it's the baby step towards architecture," a point proven by his unique triangular template. Much of the angular quality of Owens' work spawns from a triangle pattern he directly adopted from an architectural work. To be precise (as far as ambiguity can go, that is), the pattern is an adaptation of a façade relief from a building in Berlin - a structure he amusingly no longer remembers the name of.

Odyn Vovk AW11 (Source: odynvovk.com).

Infusing a touch of North American fashion blood into the mix, Los Angeles-based designer Austin Sherbanenko heads the truly buzz-worthy Odyn Vovk label (Ukrainian for "One Wolf"). Sherbanenko's method is one of foundation: building a basic structure for the fashionable persona to stand on but never going overboard. Many of his pieces - be they denim, leather, or otherwise - are often crafted with unfinished edges, jagged corners, and asymmetrical patterns, while still forcefully working with angularity and architectural undertones. As a self-taught designer, he surrounds himself by an extremely small studio group who produces everything in-house, in order to create a more controlled, intimate and personalized experience.

While these three designers certainly illicit a sense of the utility of architecture and angles within fashion and apparel design and manufacturing, one often need not look further for such an inspiration than on the streets of any metropolis. Just as music and art are often heavily intertwined, so too are clothing and building design. As the husks with which we choose to enclose our personal and professional beings, both masteries coincide within the societal realm to construct not only our surroundings but also the beliefs and struggles which lie within them.

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