5 iconic collaborations every architect interested in fashion should know

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Rem Koolhaas collaborated with Prada for the iconic "Sensory Quality of Materials" at the Prada FW21 Menswear Showspace, exemplifying their iconic collaborations.
Rem Koolhaas collaborated with Prada for the iconic “Sensory Quality of Materials” at the Prada FW21 Menswear Showspace, exemplifying their iconic collaborations.

There’s an irresistible attraction between fashion and architecture that dates back to prehistoric times and continues until today. Both are unique forms of art with similar sources of inspiration, both are passionate and curious, both are highly open to experimentation and exploration, and both share common concerns. Iconic collaborations, such as Oki Sato x Louis Vuitton, highlight this synergy, blending Sato’s minimalist design ethos with Louis Vuitton’s luxurious craftsmanship to create truly unique pieces.

The relationship between fashion and architecture has organically evolved over time with environmental factors. Once viewed as indicators of social status in ancient times, these two sectors became political tools during the Renaissance period. Supported by politics, this era witnessed significant advancements across all art forms, often considered a leap forward, resulting in important works that are still preserved in globally renowned exhibitions today.

Precise Acts – Hermès Workshops by Lina Ghotmeh Architecture
Precise Acts – Hermès Workshops by Lina Ghotmeh Architecture

After the Industrial Revolution, the increase in mechanization and mass production led to the emergence of low-cost and standardized products. This period, aimed at maximizing profits from products, emphasized the economic dimension more prominently.

As more space was given to experimental works in the 20th century, both fields became more fluid and various high fashion and architecture collaborations emerged that made a splash.

In the 21st century, technology has become a key tool for both sectors, and with the widespread adoption of the internet and the use of artificial intelligence, interdisciplinary barriers have disappeared, giving rise to multidisciplinary works through innovative material usage and production techniques.

The intersection of architecture and fashion often manifests as footwear or handbag designs, runway shows, set designs, and, frequently, retail stores. Here are the five most iconic collaborations made in recent times.

Frank Gehry x Louis Vuitton

Renowned architect Frank Gehry has engaged in one of his iconic collaborations with Louis Vuitton to create a stunning, limited-edition Capucines handbag, blending his signature architectural style with the luxury brand's timeless elegance.

Legendary architect Frank Gehry and the world-famous fashion brand Louis Vuitton have been collaborating since Gehry designed the Louis Vuitton Foundation in 2014. This partnership has led to many creative projects. Lately, Gehry and Louis Vuitton collaborated for a special exhibition at Art Basel Miami Beach, the exhibition took place in December 2023. The exhibition, which took place last December, featured, in addition to Gehry’s sketches and models, a surprise limited edition handbag collection consisting of 11 pieces.

Louis Vuitton’s classic Capucines handbag was reimagined through Frank Gehry’s vision with four main themes: Architecture and Form, Material Exploration, Animals, and Twisted Box. The bags exhibited as a Capsule collection are designed to reference Gehry’s projects and his collaboration with LVMH. Frank Gehry, who often notes his interest in fashion design, previously collaborated with Tiffany & Co. on jewelry design.

Zaha Hadid x United Nude

NOVA by Zaha Hadid for United Nude can be described as one of her iconic collaborations, turning a bold and futuristic architectural project into wearable fashion.

When it comes to fashion, Zaha Hadid is among the leading figures who, much like in architecture, has made successful contributions to various other sectors. Not only designing a flagship store for Stuart Weitzman, but also the phenomenon architect has collaborated on product designs with many famous fashion brands such as Adidas, Louis Vuitton, Fendi, Melissa, United Nude, and Lacoste. Among these iconic collaborations, one that stands out is her work with United Nude in 2013, founded by Rem Koolhaas’s nephew, Rem D. Koolhaas.

When her passion for fashion, particularly shoes, and her futuristic style combined with the rule-breaking brand of Rem D Koolhaas, who defines himself as a shoe architect, a completely new form emerged that makes forget the previous definition of classic shoes.

The shoes introduced under the name NOVA by Zaha Hadid for United Nude can be described as turning a bold and futuristic architectural project into wearable form. Utilizing the rotation molding system enabled the flawless production of the shoe with a 16.5 cm heel. Materials such as fiberglass and metallic rubber used in the design provide dynamism, while the cantilever system ensures comfort. These iconic shoes, which are still available for sale on the website, continue to attract attention.

Rem Koolhaas x Prada

Rem Koolhaas x Prada
© Bas Princen – Fondazione Prada

Undoubtedly, one of the first names that comes to mind at the intersection of architecture and fashion is Rem Koolhaas and OMA’s iconic project, Fondazione Prada. Completed in 2015, Fondazione Prada, designed by converting the former distillery, is an important example of how design can be divided into different disciplines and how they can magnificently intertwine when necessary, creating a new reality.

Although this project is the most well-known OMA-Prada collaboration, these two have accomplished many successful projects together, such as runway shows – stage design, store design and books.

Ma Yansong x Fendi

Visionary architect Ma Yansong has teamed up with Fendi to infuse the fashion house's collection with his innovative design aesthetics, resulting in a unique fusion of contemporary architecture and high fashion.

Fendi is another Italian fashion house that likes to collaborate with architects. Until today, they have worked with important names and produced creative products such as the Zaha Hadid Handbag and Kengo Kuma Craft Technique Accessories. The MAD Architects collection showcased at Fendi’s Autumn-Winter 24 menswear show in Milan added a new one to these iconic collaborations.

Ma Yansong utilized the curved lines of their buildings as the most distinctive feature defining the collection, resulting in accessories referencing MAD structures. The architect, who designed bags and shoes for the first time, had previously reinterpreted Dior’s classic Medallion chair to design Meteor.

Oki Sato x Louis Vuitton

Innovative designer Oki Sato has partnered with Louis Vuitton to bring a fresh perspective to the fashion brand, creating pieces that seamlessly blend his minimalist approach with Louis Vuitton's luxurious craftsmanship.

Oki Sato took it a step further by founding the architecture and design studio Nendo in 2002. Nendo focuses more on product design, but also engages in architecture, interior design, furniture, and display design. Quickly gaining recognition for its minimalist and innovative designs, the architect had the opportunity to showcase their first design in Milan in 2003. The architect, who stands out with unconventional designs, uses small details as clues and crafts big stories from them.

Nendo also draws attention with its unique humorous interpretation in each design it creates. So far, it has collaborated with fashion brands such as Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Kenzo, COS, Tod’s, Camper, and its works have been featured in significant museums, galleries, and events.

In 2013, the collaboration between Louis Vuitton and Nendo resulted in the Surface Lamp, along with a specially designed poster, becoming one of the key pieces of Louis Vuitton’s first furniture collection. The lamp, designed to be portable, nods to the brand’s travel theme. Both products are still available for sale.

Poster of Nendo

The renowned fashion designer Alexander McQueen once said, “Fashion is like architecture – it’s creative but technical, too.” According to him, every architect is a bit of a fashion designer, and every fashion designer is a bit of an architect. He’s not wrong; both ultimately strive to create unique and manufacturable designs.

The two creative sectors come together through various iconic collaborations and continue to inspire each other even when they are apart. Shoes, bags, stores, fashion shows, or just an interview. It doesn’t matter what the final product is, it’s nice to see them both together and it’s exciting to think about uncharted territories for later!

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