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Architecture and haute couture: crossroads

By 29 February 2024April 11th, 2024No Comments

After visiting a number of iconic fashion capitals, including New York, London and Milan, Autumn/Winter Fashion Week 2024-2025 comes to a close in Paris from 26th February to 5th March. Centuries-old fashion houses and emerging designers unveil their collections in the heart of remarkable architecture, establishing Paris as an artistic mecca.

View of the Christian Dior Autumn/Winter 2024-2025 Women’s Fashion show, set designed by Shakuntala Kulkarni – Rights reserved

A look at the 20th-century architecture that host fashion shows:

The Palais de Tokyo is the epicentre of the Women’s Fashion Fall/Winter 2024-2025 session for this edition of Fashion Week. Built in 1937 for the Paris Universal Exhibition, the building was renovated by architects Anne Lacaton and Jean-Philippe Vassal to become Europe’s largest site dedicated to contemporary design when it reopened in 2012. The architects have stripped bare the building’s raw concrete and metal structure, as well as its closed windows, to reveal and celebrate its materiality, light and plastic potential. The volumes thus freed up offer a rich and poetic spatiality, and many spaces are left free for contemporary art events. 

View of the Rick Owens – Womenswear Spring/Summer 2023 show at the Palais de Tokyo – Credits: Geoffroy Van Der Hasselt

View of the Palais de Tokyo – Credits: Getty Images

Fashion Week 2024 opened at the Cité de la mode et du design with a fashion show by students from the Institut Français de la Mode, a unique opportunity to celebrate the work of students at this prestigious institution. The inauguration spotlighted a building that has undergone a total metamorphosis from a former industrial centre, both in terms of its architecture and its purpose. The Magasins Généraux were built in 1907 by architect Georges Morin-Goustiaux at the request of the Port of Paris. Morin-Goustiaux made the bold architectural choice of exposing the concrete framework, thus creating the first modern Parisian docks of the 20th century. In 2005, architects Dominique Jakob and Brendan MacFarlane were chosen to design the project to convert the site into the Cité de la Mode et du Design. They designed a living, organic architecture, covering the reinforced concrete skeleton with a skin conceptualised under the name of “plug-over”. Inspired by the movement of the river, “plug-over” invites us to design architecture that, like fashion, connects to the surrounding urban fabric. 

View of the Institut Français de la Mode – All rights reserved

Fashion and architecture: shared inspirations, techniques and language 

Integrating these creations of women’s fashion within remarkable architecture recalls the fertile dialogue that fashion and architecture maintained throughout the 20th century. They are built around a common language, a culture of the avant-garde and a constant quest to synthesise the arts.

Both propose thinking of the human body in terms of a textile and spatial envelope, as illustrated by the exhibition at the Musée Yves Saint Laurent: “Transparences, Le pouvoir des matières”. Chiffon, organza, lace and tulle suggest an unveiling of the female body, echoing the scenography designed by architect Pauline Marchetti, which explores the theme of transparency by punctuating the space with screens stretched with diaphanous fabrics, and display cases animated with backlit panels. Textiles and architecture work together to revisit nudity.

Preview of the “Transparences, Le pouvoir des matières” exhibition at the Yves Saint Laurent Museum – Credits: Audrey from Sortiraparis

It is also by drawing on common techniques that fashion and architecture meet. While, at Moncler, designer Craig Green offers clothes that evoke tents or sleeping bags, on the architecture side, Rudy Ricciotti regularly alludes to the precision of lace in the buildings he designs, through an ultra-thin concrete structure.

While there may seem to be an antagonism between these two disciplines – the ephemeral nature of fashion versus the enduring nature of architecture – each borrows from the other in certain ways. Architecture, usually designed to last, becomes ephemeral and modular. Clothing collections, on the other hand, are increasingly enduring, as evidenced by the Dior Fashion Week show, in which designer Maria Grazia Chiuri highlighted the transitional period at the end of the 60s, when fashion left the workshop to conquer the world.

Pauline Leroux