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A house that you can wear? When fashion meets architecture

By Laura Allsop for CNN
  • An exhibition exploring the parallels between fashion design and architecture is on show in Amsterdam
  • Four fashion designer-architect groups were asked to create a wearable building
  • The exhibition reflects a growing trend in collaborations between the two disciplines

London, England (CNN) -- A dress made out of recycled waste; a collection of clothes composed of fresh flowers; a synthetic outfit that looks like wave of water around the body.

These unusual designs are the fruit of a novel collaboration between fashion designers and architects to look at the links between their disciplines.

The designs are being showcased in The Netherlands as part of an exhibition called Fashion & Architecture, currently on at ARCAM Amsterdam Centre for Architecture.

The project is the brainchild of architect Wouter Valkenier and fashion designers Liza Koifman and Tomas Overtoom. They chose four teams comprising a fashion designer and an architect and tasked them with creating a wearable piece of architecture.

We have always been aware that architecture has been an inspiration for fashion designers.
--Liza Koifman and Tomas Overtoom

Valkenier told CNN: "I think the way of design can be quite similar."

Both fashion designers and architects create inhabitable structures that protect people, he said.

That function is as important a feature of the design process in both as aesthetics, he added.

The way buildings are built and clothes are made is also becoming increasingly similar: "What I'm seeing now in this moment in architecture -- because of the economical crisis -- is cheaper buildings that will stay for only a short period. And that has a parallel with fashion design," Valkenier said.

The relationship between fashion and architecture reaches far back, according to Koifman and Overtoom, from Dutch label Ontfront.

They told CNN by email: "We have always been aware that architecture has been an inspiration for fashion designers. A classic example is Christian Dior's architectural shapes and stiff fabrics."

Recent years have seen increasing numbers of collaborations between architects and fashion designers.

Inspired by the way refugees create temporary homes whilst in transit, British-Turkish fashion designer Hussein Chalayan showed a 2000 collection of clothes that double as furniture.

Another pioneer in the field of fashion and architecture collaborations is British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid. She recently worked with French fashion house Chanel to create a mobile art pavilion based on the brand's signature quilted bag.

Hadid has also created bags for Louis Vuitton, limited edition sustainable plastic footwear for shoe designer Melissa, and leather footwear for sportswear brand Lacoste. These accessories emulate Hadid's fluid, architectural style and are designed to adapt ergonomically to the body.

Meanwhile, Dutch architect Rem Koolhaas, from the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA) in Rotterdam, has worked for years with Italian fashion house Prada. He has designed flagship stores for the brand across the world in addition to designing its innovative catwalk shows.

AMO, the architect's research offshoot (the acronym is an inversion of OMA), even designed an exhibition devoted to the skirt with Prada in Japan.

The idea of proposing a wearable architecture, Valkenier said, reflects the fast-paced nature of modern life.

He cited Peter Cook, one of the founders of 1960s London-based architectural group Archigram, as the inspiration for the show.

Cook once said: "The pulsation of city life is fast, so why not that of its environment? It reflects rise and fall, coming and going ... change. So why not build for this?"

Fifty years on, Fashion & Architecture is addressing this very question and suggesting prototypes for fusing the two design principles.

The exhibition continues until the 11th September.