Today, fashion and architecture both involve thinly clad bodies
A few months ago I wrote here about the extent to which fashion, a self-styled industry that is really little more than a craft, was getting so small that all its famous designer names were being taken over by big retailers. Worse still, I thought, was the way that these monopolistic retailers were starting to buy up architecture too, as a fashion accessory.
At the time I was puzzled as to why the world's largest retailer of luxury goods lvmh - the initials of formerly independent component firms Louis Vuitton, Moet (& Chandon) and Hennessy - had not only bought up the names of Christian Dior, Givenchy, Christian Lacroix, Celine, Loewe, dfs, Dom Perignon and Chateau d'Yquem; but had also paid for the gigantic curtains at Jean-Marie Charpentier's new Opera House in Shanghai as well as building its own New York headquarters, the strangely draped lvmh pocket skyscraper on East 57th Street designed by Christian de Portzamparc.
The answer, it seemed to me at the time, was that upmarket retail was bidding to take over the sponsorship of the whole spectrum of cultural events (governments and car manufacturers having given up the thankless task), and wanted a supply of buildings and architects on hand so as to provide a wholly owned backdrop to their collections of frocks, perfumes, luggage, art, drinks and everything else in the all-embracing landscape of luxury consumables.
There are however other explanations, fragments of a kind of Einsteinian field theory, that might provide a better explanation for a much more profound and permanent union of fashion and architecture in the future.
For a start both mediums are promoted by glossy magazines which means that they share a dependence on at least one level already, not to mention explaining why Vogue publisher Conde Nast has taken over most of Fox & Fowle's celebrated Green Skyscraper in Manhattan. But more profound than any of this is the fact that the technical infrastructures of fashion and architecture must be on an increasingly converging course, both being derived from the materials laboratories of the chemical industry.
Whereas architecture was once defined as a matter of the magnificent display of solids and voids under light (or whatever the Corbusian phrase was), it has now become the enclosure of space by the thinnest and most translucent skin. The similarity to fashion is indisputable. Whereas even 10 years ago dresses could be found with shapes of their own (and 100 years ago dresses were nothing but shapes into which women were compressed), today (according to Vogue at any rate), fashion is about bodies enclosed by the thinnest and most translucent skins, just like buildings. The real common ground is technical, as is indicated by the common use of the word 'fabric'.
The result must inevitably be that, like unmanned spacecraft programmed to meet in orbit around some distant star, fashion in its search for newer and more diaphanous yet strong fabrics, and architecture in its search for more curvaceous yet evanescent cladding systems, will collide and fuse into a world of supra-Lycra-clad bodies in infra-Lycra clad buildings.
When that day comes a proper continuum will have been established between fashion and architecture and it will be possible to walk from the finest synthetic weave all the way to the heaviest stainless wire mesh at the same parts counter - on the Internet of course.
By then lvmh may well dominate the inanimate as well as the animate cladding business, so we can look forward to the launch of a blockbuster glossy magazine called Hello Cladding that won't be only for architects.