Not without my quilt
by Martina Metzner | Nov 18, 2015


Mal kantig und technoid, mal weich und rund – oder wie ein Rettungsring? Es ist nicht leicht, in puncto Form Analogien zwischen Möbeln und Mode festzustellen.

"Calin" by Pascal Mourgue for Ligne Roset / Comme des Garçons fall/winter 2015/16, Photos © Ligne Roset, Comme des Garçons

At times the hooped petticoats of the Rococo period recall bells or pyramids, while the fringed flapper dresses of the Golden Twenties evoke lampshades. That said, in terms of shape or silhouette fashion and furniture have little in common. Direct comparisons are difficult. Garments enclose, swirl around and emphasize the human figure, while even body-like objects or coat stands, for example – are stand-ins. Clothes support the body and in doing can show it to advantage. Clothing is made largely of flexible materials that adapt to movements and produce flowing shapes, while furniture is usually rather sturdy and retains its shape with the repertoire ranging from simple box shapes to sculptural objects.

Fashion designers like Hussein Chalayan, who work at the interface between the arts and the crafts, also enjoy experimenting with sculptural and architectural motifs. For instance, for his autumn collection 2006 Chalayan developed dress collars that resemble the armrests of leather club chairs. The following season, in a collection that wrote fashion history, clothes were transformed into their final shape on the catwalk – skirt hems rose up as if by magic, sleeves were gathered, collars folded down and hats crimped. But such conceptual approaches tend to be rare.

However, other analogies between fashion and furniture can also be made. For example, in design and style the 3D-printed chairs and tables by Patrick Jouin or Wertel Oberfell with their delicate branches are not unlike the extravagant dresses by Iris van Herpen. The soft, voluminous dresses and coats which French fashion label Céline has touted since Phoebe Philo became Chief Designer in 2009, recall the curving shapes found in Arne Jacobsen or Verner Panton, or sometimes even the buildings by Frank O’Gehry or Zaha Hadid. Even polygonal surfaces occur in fashion, at least with avant-garde masters such as Yohji Yamamoto and Junya Watanabe.

So what overlappings, similarities and echoes, but also what differences can currently be determined as regards fashion and furniture design?

Sometimes techny, then rounded

Just a few years ago the world of home fashion was defined primarily by rather sober furniture designs. Meanwhile there is a sheer inestimable diversity of forms deriving from various style movements. Konstantin Grcic’s “Chair One” from 2003, say, stands for a series of rather techny and constructive looking designs. In other words, chairs, tables and sofas with a clear hard edge and even asymmetric, polygonal surfaces that reveal their (parametric) construction principle. Many such designs evolve from the options opened up by digital 3D-programs, but also CNC milling, which make it possible to create certain designs for the mass market.

However, in the North of Europe, but not only there you also encounter furniture designs that appear rather soft and reduced – and which are currently being promoted by the “new Scandinavians” such as Hay, Muuto, Normann Copenhagen and Hem. These designs are characterized by light rounded woods as chair and table legs, rounded edges and a certain visual lightness. This is especially evident in the chairs, whether it is “Nerd” by Geckeler Michels for Muuto or “Kitt” by Stefan Diez for Hay.
Moreover, lightness is a new formal criterion for furniture that occurs ever more often: Upholstered furniture of all styles stands on airy, delicate bases, tables appear less hefty and solid and are round again – for example “Emma” by Swedish designer duo Färg & Blanche for Gärsnäs and “Satori” by Delo Lindo for Ligne Roset. A phenomenon that can partly be traced back to a revival of the 1950s with designers like Jean Prouvé, Ilmari Tapiovaara and Pierre Paulin – but not only that.

Sometimes boxy, then casual

In fashion, too, designers are reviving the repertoires of the 1950s, but translating the corresponding silhouettes into altered contexts: For example, for next summer Miuccia Prada takes the boxy-cut business suit of the 1950s to a new level using patchwork, layering, mixing materials and textures, but also adding opulent details. Victoria Beckham adopts another fashion icon of the period, the shift dress, which she varies in length and shapes, but also the classic egg-shape coat with geometrical and highlighted seams, which many of her colleagues are also presenting.

As regards design, trousers are currently seeing the most action, which is also impacting on tops. The loose-fitting, mid-length culottes have moved beyond the collections and become a key piece, which also goes for other designs such as “bootcut” and “flared”, while “boxy” shirts or thigh-length, A-line tunics are gaining importance as good combinations material.

Last but not least fashion is celebrating a certain shapelessness. This is evidenced in oversized looks but also in asymmetric and complex silhouettes, which elude categorization and seem to drape the body amorphously – as with coats and the new dress over trousers combination. For instance, Phoebe Philo for Céline or Karl Lagerfeld for Fendi worked wide down-filled duvets and pillows into jackets.

"Calin" by Pascal Mourgue for Ligne Roset / Comme des Garçons fall/winter 2015/16, Photos © Ligne Roset, Comme des Garçons

Furniture: chairs, armchairs, benches, but also sofas rely on hard and clear lines and their composition is often constructive, occasionally also asymmetric. Take as an example the wooden “Clerici” series by Konstantin Grcic for Mattiazzi: some aspects actually recall structural elements in architecture.

Fashion: as part of sexual equality feminine softness in the fashion design language increasingly has to give way to masculine corners and edges. The current designs, but also the models sporting them come over as really harsh – in labels such as Vetements or Acne. This ploy is deliberately used to destroy classic role models and establish a new laissez-fairer regarding the choice of stylistic codes and gender.

“Steeve“ by Jean-Marie Massaud for Arper / Fendi fall/winter 2015/16, Photos © Arper, Fendi

Furniture: In contrast to the angular, upholstered furniture often cite cushions, duvets or down jackets. Pioneering example in this context: Patricia Urqiola’s “Foliage” for Kartell with its quilting and currently “Beau Fixe” by Inga Sempé for Ligne Roset, intended to evoke the train seats of yore. Lounge Chair 808, which Formstelle designed for Thonet, follows the same approach. Alongside a trend towards greater comfort a certain escapism is difficult to deny. Such furniture appears so soft, warm and sympathetic you only have to look at it to feel it is leisure time. You would like to sink into it immediately and leave behind the unreasonable demands of the world.

Fashion: Similarly, Céline, Fendi, Rick Owens, Yohji Yamamoto, not to mention Comme des Garçons re-vamp the good old duvet on the catwalk, turning it into quilted or draped dresses and wide jackets, which seem to promise not only coziness, but also protection and security.

“Steeve“ by Jean-Marie Massaud for Arper / Fendi fall/winter 2015/16, Photos © Arper, Fendi

Furniture: In this era ridden with catastrophes do we perhaps need a lifebuoy in the living room? You might be tempted to think so when you see “Sam Son” by Konstantin Grcic for Magis or “Pipe” by Sebastian Herkner for Moroso with its thick roll, which doubles as a back and armrest. “Oyster High” and “Oyster Wood High” by Michael Sodeau for Offect also belong in this category. Naturally, this is not absolutely new when you think of the “Ox Chair” by Hans J. Wegner, but it does have a certain style.

Fashion: Rings in fashion ...really did exist, namely in 2006 in Hussein Chalayan’s exaggerated re-interpretation of a shawl collar. But today you search for them in vain. However, you do find variations, say trumpet-shaped sleeves with Delpozo or the revived egg-shape in coats and jackets. And it is just a matter of time before rings or tubes crop up again with one of the hip Japanese designers. What remains uncertain is where they will be placed.

Fendi fall/winter 2015/16 / "808“ by Formstelle for Thonet, Photos © Fendi, Thonet

Furniture: Describing their latest coat stand for Schönbuch, designers Markus Jehs and Jürgen Laub say: “It is a sketch put into practice. A few lines in space.” Currently, several designers are following this approach. Feet and base are reduced to the finest of lines. Typically such furniture is made of metal though no longer of shiny chrome – Harry Bertoia sends his regards – but is primarily lacquered black. Just a sketch in space.

Fashion: In the prevailing complexity of codes, styles and materials fine lines transferred onto clothing tend to be something of a rarity. But if present they appear briefly in the final third of the show, when the creations for the evening are presented, and then say as delicate spaghetti straps.

Fendi fall/winter 2015/16 / "808“ by Formstelle for Thonet, Photos © Fendi, Thonet

Furniture: Scandinavians like Hay, Muuto, Gubi, Swedese, Offecct and Hem demonstrate how it is done and present a simple rounded design tailored to human proportions. That goes for chairs, tables, shelving, upholstered furniture – and even for luminaires and accessories. Everything is comfortable, adapted to the ergonomics of the body and flexible use. Examples include the “Beetle” by GamFratesi for Gubi or the luminaires Claesson Koivisto Rune design for Wästberg. Also deserving a mention: Easy Chairs with a high backrest that tapers towards the top.

Fashion: What does Scandinavian mean in fashion? Approachable, casual, cool, reduced, uncomplicated and highly aesthetic. Style codes we are now encountering outside Sweden and Denmark since the hype surrounding labels like Acne, Wood Wood or Tiger of Sweden. What makes the design so striking apart from the casual outline is the choice of material and color. In this kind of style you will largely search in vain for attention-grabbing patterns or complicated details.

"Sam Son“ by Konstantin Grcic for Magis / Del Pozo fall/winter 2015/16, Photos © Magis, Del Pozo

Furniture: For a long time large, solid, rectangular tables such as e15’s “Bigfoot” defined the face of dining rooms. Such tables create order, make for a clear seating arrangement with people sitting directly opposite each other. The situation is somewhat different in the round tables we are now encountering more: You sit relaxed around the table, have everyone in view, and talk circulates quite literally. If you work at such a table you can go around it on a swivel chair on castors. And as an occasional table the smaller version is practical because there are no disturbing edges.

Fashion: In fashion “round” is taboo. Models are tall, thin, but never curvy or even remotely plump. Only the bold venture into the shapeless, currently, for example Rei Kawakubo for Comme des Garçons or Junya Watanabe for his eponymous line. If curves are allowed then at best as a pattern – in the form of dots and circles – a classic design that comes around time and again.