“Fashion is architecture. It is a matter of proportion.” — Coco Chanel
Fashion and architecture share strategies and techniques, each adapting and adopting aspects of the other to create innovative and inspirational designs.
Rooted in art, these design disciplines are sources of mutual inspiration with many creative parallels. Each provides shelter for the human form while reflecting individuality, taste, and style.
Both professions focus on creative problem-solving using assembly, innovation, structure, fabrication, engineering, and experimentation. Applying the basics of form and function, architecture and fashion arrive at solutions that embody emotion, evoking different moods and energy.
Fashion is a wearable experience. Architecture, and remodeling by extension, is an inhabitable experience. Both are designed to be lived in, looked at, and touched. Each continually evolve, iterating and innovating as new styles emerge, traditional styles resurface, and all intertwine.
Many iconic fashion designers, among them Coco Chanel, Tom Ford, Gianni Versace, and Pierre Cardin, studied architecture in conjunction with fashion because of the interplay and fluidity between the two design disciplines.
As defined by the Interaction Design Foundation, design thinking is a non-linear, iterative process used to understand users, challenge assumptions, redefine problems, and create innovative solutions to prototype and test.
Harrell Design + Build Designer Alesia Tom, Associate AIA, has been using this iterative design thinking process throughout her careers as both an Architectural Designer and Fashion Designer.
“I’ve always been drawn to the experience of being able to wear something I’ve made or change up a room in a day, inspired by a new accessory or piece of art,” enthuses Alesia, who has an extensive background in fashion and jewelry design. “In fashion, combining unique and varied materials, textures, fabrics, patterns, and colors can create something exciting and unexpected.”
An item of clothing or an outfit evokes a specific feeling, energy, and identity. For example, there is a distinguishable difference in how one feels wearing shorts and a t-shirt versus tailored business attire. This emotional response is invoked using proportion, fabrication, material, textures, colors, patterns, shape, form, lines, and function. The same elements apply to architecture and remodeling.
In fashion, fabrics are pleated, folded, tucked, flared, and layered; in architecture, a space is designed by combining balance, form, structure, shape, form, lines, and function.
“Architecture and remodeling offer a similar experience,” Alesia continues. Various elements are combined to shape spaces that fit the needs of the homeowners, just as certain clothing fits the needs of the individual who wears it. She describes how the flow of the home — opening and closing of spaces to each other, elevation changes, varying light, ceiling heights, and subtle peripheral views — are very magical ways to play with space. Layering finish materials on top of this enhances the experience.
There are numerous shared components of fashion, architecture, and remodeling including:
- Solution-based problem-solving
- Shape or silhouette
- Proportion & feeling of space
- Geometry & balance
Let’s look at the intersection of just a few of these creative parallels.
Fashion and architecture are integrally designed to fit the human form. Clothing focuses on molding to the body, while architecture creates spaces for humans to occupy.
Fit, proportion, scale, and shape all interplay, arriving at a final destination that meets unique lifestyle needs.
“How we dress and the fashions we wear impact how we feel,” Alesia explains. “The same is true of our homes. How we “dress” and design our spaces evokes specific energy and informs the functionality.”
You might wear a suit to feel confident and professional, while workout clothing can elicit motivation and a sense of athleticism.
To enhance the intention of a design, Alesia asks her remodeling clients to consider how they want to feel in each space. Each room can have a distinct energy based on its purpose and the design elements employed.
Texture is the feel, appearance, and consistency of different materials that visually and psychologically awakens our sense of touch. Combining various textures elevates an outfit or a room from “flat and lifeless” to energetic and powerful.
Alesia offers an example of a room grounded in a neutral tone. A neutral space becomes exciting and evocative by incorporating different textures in similar tones. “Linen, velvets, leather, glass, wood…the finish and reflectivity of each material adds interest, depth, and individuality,” she enthuses.
Though texture may play a supporting role in the function of the space, it is vital to the success of a design.
The term “pop of color” originates in fashion. A colorful item of clothing intrinsically grabs our attention and imparts an emotional response. It’s a statement about who we are; color speaks to our personality and mood.
Used intentionally, color in our home conveys our individuality and is a crucial component of creating the desired energy of a space.
Color can be applied and layered in infinite ways:
- A shampoo niche or backsplash with vibrant tiles
- A kitchen appliance in a bold hue
- A daring entry door
- Using the “pop of color” interspersed throughout a home as a unifying element
Alesia confirms, “Function is another intersection where fashion and architecture intersect.”
Clothing has specific functions, just as rooms in a home have precise purposes. We dress to fit our mood and pursuit. If comfort is key, we wear less structured clothing to spend a leisurely weekend at home.
Alesia offers these examples: For special occasions, a woman wearing a gown and heels has heightened body-awareness and is intentional in her steps, while a man wearing a tuxedo (with sewn-in shoulder pads) stands and strides confidently in a tapered silhouette.
In our home, we may choose serene colors and soft fabrics for bedrooms as they create a calming, restful atmosphere. A formal dining room may have a glittering statement light fixture, while a home office focuses on organization and concentration.
Color, proportion, and the feeling of space are enhanced by accessories, just as any outfit is elevated by a thoughtfully chosen tie or piece of jewelry.
Lighting, texture, color, and mixing materials and finishes coalesce, communicating the essence of a home’s inhabitants.
“Lighting is like jewelry,” declares Alesia. “It’s the final touch and punctuates a room with personality, sparkle, illumination, and interest.”
Like fabric is to clothing, wallpaper and tile are ways to imbue a room with character. The options of pattern, texture, color, and style are limitless. Both wallpaper and tile embody personality, art, and energy.
Throughout history, fashion and architecture echo one another in form and appearance. Should they transcend into intrinsically valued art, an item of clothing becomes a museum exhibit, and a building becomes an iconic landmark.
“Certain environments bring out aspects of our lives that we want to enhance. Having a foundation in fashion helps me bring these spaces to life in a beautiful, functional, and unexpected way,” concludes Alesia.
Are you ready to enhance your home?
Harrell Design + Build is here to help. We invite you to schedule a complimentary discussion with one of our experienced Designers.
As a single source from conception through construction, Harrell Design + Build provides clients with unmatched service, convenience, and quality. Our collaborative Design + Build team can help you embrace your aesthetic, make the most of your resources, and create quality spaces that fit your unique lifestyle.
Woman Founded and 100% Employee-Owned, Harrell Design + Build has created distinctive homes in Silicon Valley and on the mid-Peninsula since 1985. Our Design + Build Team is here to help you reimagine your home inside and out.