The close relationship between art and fashion is increasingly reflected in the built environment. Many designers and fashion houses now regularly collaborate with award-winning architects to create unique retail stores, art museums and temporary structures to exhibit their goods, these architectural commissions part of a wider 21st century trend in which fashion brands are increasing their involvement in the art world, both financially as patrons and creatively as collaborators. Many have started their own foundations in support of the fine arts, assembling impressive art collections and building museums to house them, offering residencies and special commissions to contemporary artists, and funding and promoting innovative public art projects.
Just as fashion and art increasingly share a common audience and set of aesthetic values, so too do fashion and architecture. Design writer Bradley Quinn believes that the past decade’s explosive combination fashion, art and architecture, as exemplified by the proliferation of architecturally significant fashion emporiums, has deep historical roots and is an expression of the essential similarities between the two crafts. “The relationship between fashion and architecture did not manifest itself suddenly or spectacularly; the two have been hovering on the margins of a mutual existence throughout history,” he wrote in an essay, The Fashion of Architecture, which appears in Fashion and Imagination: About Clothes and Art. “The organisation of space has always been the essence of both fashion and architecture; fashion’s architectuality unfolds in its containment of space, while architecture continues to be fashioned by its relationship to the human form.”
Architecturally ambitious, the new fashion retail spaces are secular temples to good design and consumerism, places of worship for fashion’s followers but also must-see sites for tourism. As such, they are evidence of an important change in the traditional architectural hierarchy in which retail enjoyed significantly lower status than public or civic building. As Taro Igarashi writes in Art, Fashion & Architecture: “In architectural history, traditional structures such as temples, churches and palaces were the principal typologies since the dawn of civilization through the 19th century. With the advent of modernity, public and commercial institutions such as museums, city halls, train stations and office towers, as well as private domiciles became the locus of change, but retail design was paid scant regard.” In the 21st century, however, some of greatest architectural projects have involved the construction of retail spaces or offshoot projects by fashion houses.
For Salone del Mobile – the annual furniture and design fair in Milan – Swedish brand Cos commissioned New York-based architecture firm Snarkitecture to build a site-specific installation, within which was housed a pop-up store for its new collection. Said to be inspired by the “technical lightness and luminescence” of the brand’s spring 2015 collection, the firm’s founding principals, Daniel Arsham and Alex Mustonen, transformed Spazio Erbe into an immersive translucent cave with the use of the tens of thousands of strips of layered white fabric cut in undulating forms. “We knew we wanted to create a revelatory experience that played with shifting views and translucency,” explained the pair, which has previously collaborated with Calvin Klein, creating windows for its flagship Madison Avenue store. “What we came up with is an immersive environment that draws on the familiar qualities of fabric and the primal nature of caverns to create a world of reflection, exploration and interaction.”
The Cos x Snarkitecture installation is on display until 19 April 2015.