The two art forms have a shared understanding of space, structure, and composition, giving them a lot of common creative ground
Fashion and architecture have experienced an unrivaled period of growth, with star architects and major fashion brands working closely to build architectural wonders around the world. But is this simply a classic commercial act or a romantic matter based on a natural affinity from both sides? Clearly, architecture is one of the most powerful tools for achieving corporate identity in the fashion world and, on the flipside, these buildings are the perfect catwalk for promoting architectural creativity at its most extreme. But while this partnership has been able to keep both parties commercially satisfied and conquering new territories, I see a more important social and cultural impact here.
This collection of buildings shows how fashion and architecture are in fact capable of enhancing each other's relevance in the world we inhabit; Architecture and fashion's shared understanding of space, structure, and composition mean the two art forms have a lot of common creative ground as a starting point for evolution.
OMA/AMO's prolific collaboration with Prada is a great example of how architecture -- having recently reached its conscious state of context-awareness and social sensitivity -- is affecting the world of fashion. The Prada New York Epicenter is an exclusive multi-functional public space defined by OMA as: "a part of OMA/AMO's ongoing research into shopping, arguably the last remaining form of public activity, and a strategy to counteract and destabilize any received notion of what Prada is, does, or will become."
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There was already a colourful flock of notable Prada stores even before OMA took over designing their buildings and AMO their catwalks, but the Italian fashion company went on to experiment by establishing a steady relationship with Rem Koolhaas's studio. Gary Wolf, a contributing editor of Wired, has stated: "Popular styles are ... quickly duplicated. What can fashion mean when all looks are available at all prices instantly? OMA's answer to that question involves stores that are beautiful public spaces offering local benefits -- and are largely free from labels. The Los Angeles Prada will have no name on it; New York's will incorporate cultural activities separate from the retail areas. Anybody can rip off a look, but a highly specific environment that offers something to the public without imposing a sales pitch -- in other words, a local landmark -- is a way to make a brand seem more substantial."
So what about evidence of fashion's effect on architecture? You just have to look at Omotesando Street in Tokyo, one of the foremost 'architectural showcase' streets in the world, featuring a multitude of fashion flagship stores designed by internationally renowned architects within a short distance of each other.
Modern architecture has long since departed from its beauty-bound origins in pursuit of higher conceptual grounds -- often preferring substance over style. But looking at the above examples of elegant buildings affirms a certain faith in fashion's possible contribution to architecture restoring its long-lost relationship with the classical notion of beauty.
View the complete OpenBuildings collection: Fashion Flagship Stores.
Image: Iwan Baan.