Blurred disciplinary lines are visible throughout the design world. Architects moonlight as furniture designers, artists as product designers, and it seems almost everyone has had a stint as a jewelry designer. One of my favorite overlaps is architecture and fashion: garments and structures offer protection from the elements, provide an expressive face to the world, and, well, just look damn fine while doing so. You can only imagine my delight when the work of Airi Isoda and her architecturally influenced fashions crossed my desk.
I was excited to see materials typically found in buildings—concrete, wood, metal, latex paint, and Tyvek—used alongside natural wool, silk and cotton. Plus, unlike a lot of architecturally influenced fashion, these designs are very wearable. The clothes feature minimal silhouettes; materials are used innovatively and their inherent textures celebrated; the pieces are functional—marks of good, modern architecure. "The introduction of unique materials in wearable garments is my attempt to connect the wearer to their surrounding built environments," writes Isoda on her website. Isoda answered a few questions about her work, her influences, and the industrial material she thinks has the most character. Here's what she has to say.
How did you become interested in the intersection of architecture and fashion?
Back in 2006, when I was working as an architectural designer, I went to the opening of "Skin & Bones: Parallel Practices in Fashion & Architecture" at MOCA. It was a life-changing experience for me; it opened my eyes to the similarities in clothing and building design. Since then, I have been looking for ways to bring fashion and architecture together.
You've lived in different countries and cities all around the world. How has that influenced your creative vision?
I believe it's a subconcious influence, but I tend to design things that can translate all over the world, whoever you are and wherever you might live.
What was the most inspirational place?
Tokyo is probably most inspirational since my family's cultural background is Japanese. I visit there as often as I can. It's a city of change that respects the historic and the traditional. The city is so complex with many simple solutions—a creative heaven for designers.
Your designs feature many industrial building materials—how did the idea to use them in fashion come about?
When I started designing this debut collection, I couldn't separate myself from the materials I was familiar with as an architect. Using building materials in fashion was a fundamental attempt to link the wearer to their built environment. It's quite a literal interpretation of linking fashion and architecture.
What are your favorite materials to work with? The most challenging?
My favorite materials are industrial-grade felted wool and concrete. Felted wool is soft but it also has structure and body—it's easy to work with and is a very versatile material whether you are making a bag or a winter coat. Concrete has so much life and character, which makes it my favorite material, but it's also the most challenging to work with. It's sensitive and needs a lot of TLC. But in the end, after all the experimenting, you can create a beautiful product.
Can you talk a little bit about your favorite pieces?
My favorite pieces are the concrete-dipped coat and dress. It's a very simple idea and design execution, but a lot of effort went into the actual dipping of the garment, from making the right concrete mix to experimenting the drying process, and, most fundamentally, making the concrete-dipped coat/dress wearable. Also, I just love seeing people's reaction when they realize it's made of concrete!
What other projects do you and Workshop have in the pipeline?
wrk-shp is a multi-disciplinary design collective, so we take on projects with various creative outlets. Fashion and architectural design are our forte, but with the leftover concrete from the dipping, we make various concrete housewares and jewelry. While we prepare for another fashion collection for spring/summer 2012, we are also developing concepts for architecture projects that incorporate fashion ideas. "Architecture meets fashion" works both ways!
In the meantime, where can people find your designs?
At the moment, the pieces can be seen and ordered on our website: wrk-shp.com.