If you are one of the fortunate (or unfortunate depending on how you fare with jet lag) fashion souls traversing from Milan to Seoul to Los Angeles and then to Cannes for the growing cluster of cruise shows and brand celebrations, by the end of it you will have experienced an extraordinary architectural smorgasbord that would make Dezeen and Designboom readers swoon with jealousy. Feted last week was OMA’s Fondazione Prada art centre in Milan. Chanel staged their superfuture cruise show in the curvaceous UFO-esque Dongdaemun Design Plaza in Seoul designed by Zaha Hadid. I’m currently in Palm Springs, ready to enter another kind of a spaceship in the volcanic shape of Bob and Dolores Hope’s estate envisioned by John Lautner in 1973 for the Louis Vuitton cruise show. Next week, I’ll also be hopping over to Cannes for the Dior cruise show, which did a mysterious U-turn location change from LA because an “exceptional” venue had come up. It’s Pierre Cardin’s brilliantly bonkers Palais Bulles or Bubble, conceived by Antti Lovag. And if you’ve really been pounding the fashion globe-trotting trail, you might also have been up in the hills of Hollywood at the Griffith Observatory for Burberry’s Britastic bash two weeks ago.
It’s hard not to read a “trend” into this bestowment of architectural largesse on our eyes. The round the world cruise show tour really began to take shape last year when both Dior and Louis Vuitton came onboard and as Business of Fashion has recently noted, the point is to take sole ownership of a city and to broadcast an experience that feels special and unique at a time when the calendar isn’t crowded.
Beyond far flung locations though, the use of architectural wonders this year to impress a) the guests physically going and b) the audience fed with behind the scenes content and c) consumers in the immediate vicinity of the show, feels significant. The architecture in these instance communicate weight and longevity and for the most part are centred around innovation, which parlay well with the values of these maisons and their creative directors.
For Louis Vuitton and Nicolas Ghesquière, it’s not enough to go far out into the middle of the desert as they sought to find a venue that wasn’t in the public eye (unless you have a cool
$50 $25 million to spend as it’s still technically on the market). Lautner’s original vision was actually compromised with the later involvement of Bob Hope but the drama of this space-age Jetsons-esque entity nestled into the craggy red rocks of Palm Springs can’t be exaggerated. Echoing Ghesquiere’s penchant for sci-fi referencing – the digital water catwalk of last year’s cruise show in Monaco, the trippy S/S 15 video intro with promises of space travel, the surveillance video set-up of A/W 15-6 in temporary geodesic domes – Bob Hope’s home promises to be the most monumental incarnation of this visionary designer’s futuristic streak.
The links between Pierre Cardin’s Bubble Palace and Raf Simons’ vision at Dior aren’t just based on aesthetic but they’re also historical. Cardin once worked for Christian Dior in the tailoring department when the ‘New Look’ was conceived. Antti Lovag’s bubble housing was built between 1975 and 1989 and despite the spacey spherical formations and the many glass portals, the design is based on what Lovag called “habitology” – going back to the roots of our ancestral habitats of caves and rock dwellings. It’s sort of like the more permanent manifestation of the light-filled cave-like venue used for the S/S 14 Dior couture show. The parallels are as clear as the Cote D’Azur sea, which the house overlooks. Lovag, Cardin, Dior and Simons – visionaries who have innovated. It’s no wonder Dior changed their show location at the last minute (the show was originally slated to be in LA). This house seems truly to have been too good to pass up.
P.S. I can’t deny that I’m kind of giddy about going to a place called Bubble Palace to see a fashion show. Someone might need to clamp my mouth shut in case I squeal too much.
Whilst Louis Vuitton and Dior’s cruise locations are hidden away from public view, Chanel’s venue couldn’t be more out there. Zaha Hadid’s Dongdaemon Design Plaza completed only last year and forms a showstopping central hub for Seoul’s fashion and tourist district. In this instance, Chanel’s cruise show looks to the future of a rabid fashion consumer of the 4th largest economy in Asia. This building is part and parcel of the glass and steel engulfed landscape in Seoul that collectively communicates its prowess with giants like LG and Samsung looming large. For Chanel, it’s the converging of one of fashion’s oldest maisons helmed by the longest serving fashion designer around with a city in flux and a consumer that walk in and out of those sheeny shiny malls, taking to fashion with an enthusiasm that I found fascinating when I last went to Seoul.
Of course, we can’t forget one of the original collaborations between architecture and fashion. Prada and Rem Koolhaas/OMA’s relationship has really set the bar high in that this is a brand that isn’t merely hiring out a venue but actively collaborating with an architect practise on not just stores or show spaces but on ambitious projects like the Fondazione Prada. Seven renovated buildings with three additional ones in Southern Milan that intersects the old with the brand spanking new, emphasised by the gold leaf cladding. Apparently the 24 karat gold leaf was cheaper than the more traditional counterparts. That’s a Miuccia-ism if ever there as one – something cheap masquerading as something precious.
When Burberry took over the Griffith Observatory for their London in Los Angeles epic show and performance, here architecture wasn’t used to convey values of innovation or visionary thinking. Instead, they intercepted the existing structure with unabashedly British iconography. Or specifically royal iconography with the erection of wrought iron gates at the entrance to the venue made to look like the ones in Kensington Park Garden as well as a pomp and parade projection worked in with the trooping of the real Buckingham Palace guards. LA has the star power as well as a welcoming appetite for Britishness and Burberry were ready to physically pump up that Brit factor in the Hollywood Hills.