Klein’s clothing and other contributions to the world of fashion are more similar, at least in concept, to architecture than you might think. At an address at Harvard Graduate School of Design, he explained why.
How it All Started
The House of Calvin Klein had its beginnings in the late 1960s, when he got his start designing coats for women. The design superpower that be became grew to include full lines of women’s and men’s clothing, fragrances, cosmetics, and home furnishings. Now that might seem a little more like architecture, but still he believes that they are all related.
Klein has always been interested in going where other designers haven’t gone before. When nobody was advertising on billboards, he went there. When nobody advertised on television, he went there and stirred up controversy using a teenage Brooke Shields. Controversy which turned into publicity that nobody could have predicted.
In all of the promotional efforts for Klein’s work, setting has played a major role. That’s true, whether the setting was a plain white backdrop or a creepy space that resembled an old, tacky basement. Setting helped tell the story of the jeans, perfume or chair that was the subject of the campaign. And setting is all about shape.
Watch part of his address in this video:
Shape, Form and Function
Architecture and fashion both have functions. They’re meant to be used in one way or another. Klein mentions in his speech that he likes to imagine that the clothing he creates make people feel good. And isn’t that what building designers also do? Architects solve problems and enhance the quality of the people who use their designs. And in many ways, so do fashion designers.
But the comparison between a building and a jacket is also about the form itself. Some fabrics have no shape. They’re fluid and they drape. But then some have a distinct shape, and it’s moldable and shapeable in the hands of a designer. The fabric itself becomes a creation with distinct architectural lines. Likewise, an architect understands how building materials will respond to certain dimensions and arrangements and under certain conditions.
Klein considered the similarities between fashion and architecture during the creation of his 1970s apartment, which was decked out in industrial materials such as chrome and rubber with leather upholstery. Materials have characteristics that respond differently to different design techniques, users and their environment, whether they’re used to create a table, an evening gown or a skyscraper. But more than that, architecture and fashion design are both art forms.
When you button a shirt or pull on a jacket, you might never imagine that the designer who created it was inspired by the same things as you. You see beauty in the bold lines of a home designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. A fashion designer sees beauty in the shape of a coat’s shoulders. But they’re really about the same thing – how the materials respond to the designer’s vision and enhance the life of the person who owns or uses them.
Architecture is an art form, and one that you spend a life honing and perfecting. That’s evident by your commitment to continuing education. That’s why PDH Academy offers what you need in a convenient, online format. Check out our courses for architects when your next professional development hours are due.