Architects and their Fashion

uch of what we see in the world of architecture and fashion is not entirely dissimilar and both present clean lines, dynamic curves, structure and shape. But what of architects and their fashion choices and are they as style-savvy as fashion designers?

Zaha Hadid

“Architecture is how the person places herself in the space. Fashion is how you place the object on the person.”

If you were to ask anyone to name a famous female architect, then Zaha Hadid would most likely come to mind for most people. Zaha became known for building the unbuildable and in 2004, she became the first woman to win the coveted Pritzker Architecture Prize. She won the Stirling Prize twice, in 2010 for her design of the iconic contemporary art museum the Maxxi Museum in Rome, which she gladly accepted wearing an exquisite yellow Prada coat. Then again in 2011, for her design of the Evelyn Grace Academy in London.

Zaha Hadid
Zaha Hadid (cc 2015)

Zaha Hadid was a woman of expansive style and was well known for her flamboyant and personal fashion sense and not unlike fashion, her buildings were known for their dynamic curves and swooping silhouettes. She had a passion for coats, sometimes rocking up her lectures at the Architectural Association wearing flamboyant pink coats by Chantel Thomass. It should come as no surprise that she appreciated designers who dared to reinterpret both fabrics and proportions in their pieces and she followed Belgian and Japanese designers amongst others. She believed that once you stood up wearing certain pieces, they become something else as opposed to the piece laying still – they become animated. She once wore a padded silk jacket by Japanese designer Issey Miyake upside down declaring that ‘I always wear his pieces that way round. They just look better.’ I am sure Issey Miyake would not have minded Zaha reinventing his designs. At the opening of a bar she designed, she wore lilac metallic leggings and at a dinner in her honor, wore a black satin Prada jacket encrusted with sequins.

Since her twenties, she dressed to be noticed and that carried on into the later part of her life – where she dressed in a way that forced you to notice her. That makes you think about how some people only become individuals only later in life and that when you are much younger, you are sill unmolded – but there are some people that are individuals very early on in life. Zaha decided she wanted to be an architect at the age of 12 (she even designed her own bed by the age of 10). It wasn’t unusual for Zaha to wear clothes that would make her body appear to be made of twisted-together black balloons or dramatic capes, the sort of ones that Frank Lloyd Wright wore, like him – she favored capes.

Zaha Hadid was involved in collaborations with Melissa and Lacoste, where she designed shoes for them. These architectural designed shoes ranged from the practical and wearable to sculptural objects. For the Brazilian brand Melissa – she designed shoes of moulded plastic which made it easier to create shapes that can’t be achieved with the more traditional methods associated with shoe making. Shoes that look like they were designed with the fluid organic contours of the body in mind.

Shoes designed by Zaha Hadid for Melissa
Zaha Hadid for Melissa

With her collaboration – Zaha Hadid for Lacoste, she designed a series of limited edition shoes. These shoes were designed utilizing dynamic fluid grids, which wrapped around the foot, that were designed to expand and contract to negotiate the body ergonomically.

Shoes designed by Zaha Hadid for Lacoste
Zaha Hadid for Lacoste

In 2014 Zaha Hadid was chosen to design an exhibition at London’s Design Museum which looked at how women in positions of power use fashion and she more-or-less chose herself.  She was just one of the 26 women that provided at least one of their outfits to the exhibition and they had to provide and explanation about their selections to be shown alongside their contributed outfits. Other women that provided outfits were: Vivienne Westwood and Diane von Furstenburg, Natalie Massenet and first female mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo. Some of the outfits Zaha provided were a cream colored cape by Prada.

Zaha Hadid
Zaha Hadid wearing one-of-a-kind design by Elke Walter. Photograph by Tung Walsh

In 2013 Zaha Hadid hosted a show in her gallery space in London of works by Elke Walter who was one of her favorite fashion designers. At that time Elke Walter was creating one-of-a-kind garments that draped into profligate shapes rather than garments that are cut and fitted for the body and they become a favorite of Zaha and for most of the photoshoots that Zaha did for opening events for her building projects, she wore Elke Walter’s designs. Her designs were mainly oversized (the rise of oversize is currently in trend again) and used a lot of material, which created flexibility and allowed them to fit any body type or near free-form fit. Instead of using patterns, Elke cut straight into the fabric or would hold it up like a sculpture so that she could give the outfit a shape from all sides. It would seem that Zaha chose fashion designers that she felt shared a link with in terms of how they thought and designed.

Zaha Hadid’s work extended beyond architecture with her collaborations with Lacoste, Zaha Hadid for Melissa, Adidas – the original Superstar Supershell in collaboration with Pharrell Williams, a bag she designed for Luis Vuitton and a necklace for Swarovski. Many of these designs showed the same originality as many of the buildings that she designed in her own inimitable fashion and with the emphasis on the structure of the piece – so there is definitely a strong interplay between the design elements that are involved in both architecture and fashion. Zaha Hadid was certainly style-savvy and the clothes the she chose to wear were somewhat more like structures than garments.


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