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5 Times Architecture Played Main Character at Luxury Fashion Shows

 CULTURE


From an oversized yellow toy race track to a plexiglass runway suspended over grass and pebbles, here is a selection of five big moments where leading architects joined forces with luxury fashion houses to weave diverse narratives — from the whimsical to the critical.


By Shivani V K

8 April 2024


AMO’s design for Prada’s FW 2021 menswear showspace set a sensorial stage | Image by Agostino Osio; Courtesy of OMA and Prada


What happens when you unshackle the architect from the constraints of longevity, durability and everyday efficiency? What happens when you give them the magical design brief of theatrics alone? Here, we dive into five instances where architects let their hair loose to create the most unconventional sets for haute couture runway shows.


AMO x Prada: A Playful Jab at Modern Living 

AMO, the research and creative studio of Rem Koolhaas-founded OMA, recently took over the Prada Fall/Winter 2024 menswear show during Milan Fashion Week where serene swathes of grass, pebbles and running water were overlaid with see-through plexiglass.


The AMO x Prada FW 2024 menswear show featured a plexiglass runway suspended over grass, pebbles and running water | Images by Agostino Osio and Alberto Moncada; Courtesy of OMA and Prada


The plexiglass formed the runway, with the surprising addition of the ubiquitous black swivel office chairs forming the seating in a somewhat bleak political commentary on the ways of contemporary living. A grid of office-style strip lights hung above, adding to the incongruity of modern dystopia suspended above a realm of tranquil nature. 


The incongruity of modern dystopia suspended above a realm of tranquil nature at the AMO x Prada FW 2024 menswear show | Images by Agostino Osio and Alberto Moncada; Courtesy of OMA and Prada


The show is only one of AMO’s many collaborations with Prada; others include the Italian luxury fashion house’s Fall Winter 2021 menswear showspace, which garnered attention for its sensorial experience. The set was made of four interconnected rooms in the shapes of a rectangle, square, circle and octagon, each rendered in distinctly tactile materials such as glassy black resin, smooth marble, fur floors and more. 


The sensorial AMO x Prada FW 2021 menswear showspace | Image by Agostino Osio; Courtesy of OMA and Prada


PlayLab Inc. x Louis Vuitton: Beyond the Yellow Brick Road

Befitting its name, the Los Angeles-based creative practice PlayLab Inc. took the idea of play to the courtyard of the iconic Musée du Louvre in Paris for French fashion brand Louis Vuitton's Spring Summer 2023 menswear show. Subtly referencing the yellow brick road from the popular novel and musical The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, an oversized bright yellow toy race track was created as the runway, placed in stark juxtaposition to the classical beauty of the Parisian palace in its backdrop.



PlayLab Inc. installed an oversized yellow toy race track punctuated by red balloons for Louis Vuitton's SS 2023 menswear show | Image Courtesy of Louis Vuitton


The racetrack had seating incorporated along its length, curves and bends — it even went a full 360 degrees at one point — while details such as oversized red balloons added to the whimsical atmosphere. The theatrics did not stop there, with a marching band procession opening the show, while the couture itself boasted details like leather paper planes and quirky hats and embroidery. “Fashion has always been a place where you can simultaneously experiment with not just commerce but art,” says PlayLab Inc. co-founder Jeff Franklin. “It transports people to an alternate reality that could feel real. I think it’s a really interesting theater to play with.”



The PlayLab Inc. x  Louis Vuitton collaboration brought the idea of play to the courtyard of the Musée du Louvre | Image Courtesy of Louis Vuitton


Gaetano Pesce x Bottega Veneta: An Ultra Chromatic Ode to Nonconformity

“Design is one of the many ways I have to break the rules,” said Gaetano Pesce as he transformed a drab concrete shell into a literal burst of color for Italian luxury fashion house Bottega Veneta at the 2023 Milan Fashion Week. The Italian architect, who recently passed at 84, made a mark in the design world by seeing many eccentric design visions through to fruition; he was described as "the architectural equivalent of a brainstorm," by The New York Times critic Herbert Muschamp.


The Gaetano Pesce x Bottega Veneta SS 2023 show in Milan featured a multicolored pool of resin furnished with 400 matching chairs | Image by Matteo Canestraro; Courtesy of Bottega Veneta


For those familiar with Pesce’s work, the show in Milan was no surprise. It featured a striking, swirling, multicolored pool of resin furnished with 400 matching cotton-dipped resin chairs lining the meandering length of the runway. Named Come Stai?, the chairs, each of which were distinct from the next, themselves made a statement with some even featuring Pesce’s signature smiley face graffiti. According to the architect, the chairs represent individuality, and their design is an act of rebellion against societal conformity.


Each of the Come Stai? chairs were distinct from the next, some even featuring Gaetano Pesce’s signature smiley face graffiti | Image by Matteo Canestraro; Courtesy of Bottega Veneta

Saint Laurent’s Celebration of a 20th Century Modernist Icon

The Neue Nationalgalerie, an iconic institution of modern art in Berlin, stands as a testament to the brilliance of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, one of the most influential architects of the 20th century. Following nearly five decades of use and a meticulous restoration led by British architectural practice David Chipperfield Architects, this architectural masterpiece was recently transformed into a backdrop for French luxury fashion brand Saint Laurent’s Spring Summer 2024 menswear show.


The iconic Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe | Image Courtesy of Saint Laurent

In an elegant display of reverence for the setting, the brand approached the show with a delicate touch, pairing it seamlessly with the sharp silhouettes that define the collection. The stone-clad exhibition hall provided the backdrop, with subtle interventions like gray suspended curtains guiding the gaze towards the runway, allowing both architecture and fashion to have their moment.


Sharp silhouettes against the stone backdrop of the Neue Nationalgalerie at Saint Laurent’s SS 2024 menswear show | Image Credits: Saint Laurent






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