Architects who made the transition to the world of fashion design


Architects who made the transition to the world of fashion design

The term “architect” can be subject to interpretation, as can the reverence for an artist. However, the universally accepted definition of the role is considered to be one who designs and plans buildings, a key member in terms of building construction. Architecture as a profession presents itself as a very diversified profession. As art and science in every sense, it offers insight into a huge range of topics that can be applied to a range of different businesses.

Often, architecture students are presented with such a rigid course, constrained by these short-sighted ideas that an architect must follow a particular direction in order to flourish in the field. When in fact it is interesting to note the vast opportunities that arise when given the opportunity to diversify. Here are the architects who branched out and became successful fashion designers…

Tom Ford, Miami.  Image courtesy of Aranda LaschVersace mansion 'Casa Casuarina'.  Image © Domino ArtsVampire suit by Mugler 1988. Image © Manfred Thierry MuglerBalmain flagship store rue Saint-Honoré in Paris.  Image © Diego de Pol+ 15

The world of fashion and architecture is steeped in design parallels. Both focus on the idea of ​​construction; on very different subjects while emphasizing the form and comfort of the occupants. As Coco Chanel once said “Fashion is architecture, it’s a question of proportions”. As artisans, they seek to translate their own visions through texture, color and form. The ultimate goal being beauty and durability, a result that continues to evolve and challenge the status quo.


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Off-White flagship store.  Image courtesy of Off-White
Off-White flagship store. Image courtesy of Off-White

The interrelation between the two fixes the idea of ​​problem solving. There is an outstanding issue or brief that the designer needs to address. They then describe this design idea through drawings and plans, and then reflect on the work to determine if it meets the client’s requirements. Both provide shelter for the human body, large and small scale.

Fashion presents itself as frivolous and dynamic in nature, while architecture is more rigid in its permanence. Fashion can be fleeting, but often inspires architectural thought and vice versa. The boundaries between disciplines begin to blur as we compare them, suggesting how these multidisciplinary figures materialized

1. Virgil Abloh

Virgil Abloh.  Image © Student Gsapp
Virgil Abloh. Image © Student Gsapp

Perhaps the most notable architect-turned-fashion designer is the late creative director of Louis Vuitton Virgil Abloh, who originally held a master’s degree in civil engineering and architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology before entering the world of fashion design. Here he was inspired by the work of the Bauhaus movement, converging elements of art, craft and design into a single practice.

Kreo Gallery Exhibition
Galerie Kreo Exhibition “Efflorenscence”. Image © Morgane Le Gall

“Young architects can change the world by not building buildings” – Virgil Abloh

His lyrics speak of depth. Throughout his career he has explored the links between the world of fashion and architecture, often referring to architectural discourse in his exploratory works. The collection Efflorescence for Kreo Gallery in Paris, 2019 was heavily inspired by brutalism, featuring heavy concrete blocks wrapped in street art. He was considered by the gallery as “a landscape where the rigidity of structures and urban planning meets the randomness of organic growth, human appropriation and marking.”

2.Pierre Balmain

Balmain flagship store rue Saint-Honoré in Paris.  Image © Diego de Pol
Balmain flagship store rue Saint-Honoré in Paris. Image © Diego de Pol

Prior to his success in establishing the Balmain fashion housePierre Balmain first began studying architecture in ESchool of Fine Arts in 1933. He later found himself in love with Haute Couture, abandoning the profession for an alternative path in design.

”Sewing is the architecture of movement”- Pierre-Balmain

Balmain flagship store rue Saint-Honoré in Paris.  Image © Diego de Pol
Balmain flagship store rue Saint-Honoré in Paris. Image © Diego de Pol

Although he gave up architectural training, he continued to be heavily influenced by architectural form and design thinking, visualizing the creation of the dress as a construction. He likened it to creating the buildings themselves, providing form, function and beauty. As immense post-war influence during the rise of Hollywood, he continued to challenge the boundaries of glamorous and classic fashion, proclaiming that tailoring should offer fluidity because it is a kinetic architecture of the body.

3.Tom Ford

Tom Ford, Miami.  Image courtesy of Aranda Lasch
Tom Ford, Miami. Image courtesy of Aranda Lasch

Tom Ford, former creative director of luxury fashion house Gucci, is famous for reinventing the brand into a provocative and popular line. found his own Tom Ford label in 2004 and experimenting with filmmaking, it’s no surprise to note his background in architectural education, studying interior design at the Parsons School of Design At New York. During his last year of studies, he was awakened to his true calling and entered the world of fashion design after graduation. Using design skills from his architectural background, he siphoned Gucci from the ashes, saving the brand from its downfall in the 1990s.

“I woke up one morning and thought, ‘What am I doing?’ Architecture was way too…serious. I mean, every architectural project I’ve ever done, I’ve worked a dress on it in one way or another. So I realized that fashion was the right balance between art and commerce, and that was it. Tom Ford

4. Gianni Versace

Versace mansion 'Casa Casuarina'.  Image © Domino Arts
Versace mansion ‘Casa Casuarina’. Image © Domino Arts

Specialized in architectural design before embarking on an eventful and successful career in fashion, the late Gianni Versace is known for his architectural influence, drawing heavily on ancient Greek and Roman stylization, immersing his designs in intricate borders and patterns inspired by mosaics and various sources of ancient art. A reflection of his interest can be seen in the iconic Versace Medusa, prevalent on much of his work and the Versace mansion, ‘Casa Casuarina’, built in respect of the neo-Mediterranean style.

”I think it’s the designer’s responsibility to try to break the rules and barriers’ – Gianni Versace

As an innovative icon, his works include metal clothing in collaboration with German engineers, creating the infamous mesh ‘Oroton’ Equipment still popular with the brand today. Versace continued to create inventive and cutting-edge techniques, including bonding leather to rubber using lasersbefore his murder in 1997.

5. Thierry Mugler & Casey Cadwallader

Vampire suit by Mugler 1988. Image © Manfred Thierry Mugler
Vampire suit by Mugler 1988. Image © Manfred Thierry Mugler

Manfred Thierry Mugler once said ‘I am an Architect who completely reinvents the female body”. Renowned for his architectural approach to the language of fashion, his defining work is his hyper-feminized haute couture. Briefly studying architecture before his transition to fashion, the Mugler House continues to take an architectural approach to design and inspiration.

Mugler Pop in Mali 1987. Image © Manfred Thierry Mugler
Mugler Pop in Mali 1987. Image © Manfred Thierry Mugler

Casey Cadwallader the brand’s latest creative directorjust as its founder himself studied architecture before ending up in fashion, earning a degree in architecture from Cornell University, New York. Building on Mugler’s heritage, Cadwallader continues to seek inspiration via architectural precedence, including 17 by architect Francesco Borrominiand works of the century as a catalyst for new innovative ideas.

Perhaps an unorthodox approach to the study of fashion, the study of architecture continues to inspire and produce many multidisciplinary designers who transition into a range of different disciplines, whether designing furniture, interior design, product design and a large number of other factions. These designers continue to inspire each other, with architecture influencing fashion, fashion influencing interior design, and more. There are no more borders between the creatives, the creative can be malleable.

Joseph E. Golightly