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Synthesizing Beauty

How the trends of fashion are influencing interior design, and vice versa.

10.02.2017 by Heesun Kim, vice president and creative managing director, FRCH Design Worldwide
By Heesun Kim, vice president and creative managing director, FRCH Design Worldwide

Fashion retail stores are now being looked at more than ever as expressive environments—ecosystems that transport customers’ senses to immersive wonderlands, animating the products’ strength in a contextual light. The power of embracing the organic things in life encourages interactions between people and beauty that transcends the transactional. The fashion runways are no stranger to infusing their spring collections with motifs that usher a whiff of floral essence, but where the strength lies for interiors, of many forms, is translating the natural elements in unexpected ways, even subversively so.

Christian Dior’s flagship store in Seoul, for example, designed by Christian de Portzamparc and Peter Marino, is an expressive architectural symbol that reflects an absolute extravagance through organic forms and aesthetical motion. The character of architecture is synchronized perfectly with the essence of Dior’s fashion, reflecting an extreme mood of feminine and surrealistic purity. The building is softly wrapped by multiple layers of pure white petals that harken one of Dior’s signature design elements: the flower. The architecture acts as the timeless art that encourages the interaction of space and the story of fashion.

Blurring the Line Between Art and Design 

Art has never been shy when it comes to saying what it truly feels: It shakes up unexpected elements with sensibility, emotion, and function, which expresses the vision through abstract ways to be a part of and to mirror culture while leading it to new, unexpected places. It twists and turns the norm with innovative styling, color, and serendipitous combinations. 

Alexander McQueen, a visionary designer who made his chops crafting fine men’s bespoke tailoring on London’s Savile Row, created immersive wonderlands within fashion for his eponymous brand. His work, inspired by the dramatic theatricality often found on stage, blended structural tailoring with time-consuming couture techniques, which blurred the expected with the imaginative. He often combined heritage with fashion technology, one of the first designers to ever do so, and pushed boundaries that he didn’t know existed in the first place. He treated his catwalks like fashion theatre; it was performance art really, and it was disturbing, pornographic, beautiful, and tear-jerking. He had a penchant for pushing graphics into wild shapes (Horn of Plenty), or even bringing the aquatic (Plato’s Atlantis) to life with ink-jet printing overlaid into mind-numbing precision with fragile chiffons and taffeta, heavy jacquards, and jersey fabrics.

Interiors can also achieve this effect, but with a careful eye that blends proportion, texture, color, and a mix-and-match understanding of the ebb and flow of space. The effect of blurring the lines is achieved when central points within a space voluntarily draw your eye within mini vignettes, allowing for an intensive study to uncover more secrets beneath the big idea and the inspiration behind it.

 New Age American Heritage: Brand Localization

When design speaks to a customer’s heart, the space receives a relationship and connectivity with the user on a personal level. One size doesn’t fit all; it’s all about understanding and knowing your audience. Brand localization, a strategy and tactic employed by designers and marketers alike, taps the behaviors and language of many forms to create cohesive storytelling that appeals and creates a natural nostalgia of the location it serves. Raf Simons’ new strategy for Calvin Klein embraced a new age of American heritage with his collection and stores, bringing a nostalgic nod to the codes of Americana that influenced each other: American quilting affixed to the store ceiling, dangling with not a care in the world; fringe inspired by the South; and humorous plastic coating affixed over furs and plaid coats. 

When Calvin Klein announced the makeover of the flagship store on Madison Avenue in Manhattan, one of the most iconic retail spaces of minimalistic architecture by John Pawson, many designers were in shock. Adopting simple and familiar elements from American vintage such as hanging textiles, inspired by the American flag and quilting techniques, the new look of Calvin Klein generates a deep connection with the local audience. 

Minimalist Twist 

Minimalism celebrates the beauty of architectural dimensionality. But, first and foremost, it empowers the designer to act as a sculptor—a sculptor that employs thoughtful restraint, and merges how functionality works within the complex codes of architectural mechanics. 

Minimalism, when employed correctly, can speak a thousand thoughts without all of the words. It’s a thoughtfully developed narrative that expresses subversive ingenuity with bold and/or restrained shapes. The power of inviting the guest into a minimalist environment is that with their own translation, they write the story to their own journey. There’s no wrong or right way to experience it. 

While minimalism will always be ingrained in the foundation of design (more so in particular cultures than others), the future of the movement blends the austere with a twist. The strict attitude of a sharp, linear jolt or a sinuous curve is expanded upon in whimsical fashioning with humor, breaking out of a rigid mold.  

Poetic Expression: Storytelling 

The power of storytelling lies not within the story itself, but within the imbedded nature between the linear and inspirational codes of the brand’s equity. It takes the literal and enhances it with creative scale to serve the space, and can even uncover the unexpected. A designer has a powerful ability to move, control, and change human feeling and mood just like an artist. 

Stories appeal to us so deeply because they resonate with us poetically, and it is with this gift of seeing the future through the eyes of the present that results in shape-shifting design (and elements) that challenge the way we live, shop, and conduct our most important moments of life within four walls of varying degree. 

Storytelling within Saks Fifth Avenue’s new store in Greenwich, Conn., is built upon an expressive idea of the “Collector’s House” where beauty and elegance came together with history. Seasonality was treated not as a fleeting, cyclical ecosystem; rather it was considered as an imprint on time. And how fun is Jeff Koons’ story collaboration for Louis Vuitton, taking historical art by Rubens, Da Vinci, Van Gogh, Fragonard, and Titan on classic bag silhouettes that animates an interesting pairing between a modern artist and historical art on a commercial product?