Style logo

Skin + Bones

Parallel Practices in Fashion and Architecture

The Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles

November 19, 2006 to March 5, 2007

The National Art Center, Tokyo

June 6 to August 13, 2007

Hardcover catalogue, by Brooke Hodge, Patricia Mears and Mark Wigley, 272 pages, Thames & Hudson, 530 illustrations

Inside-Out 2 Way Dress by Hishinuma

Inside-Out 2 Way Dress by Yoshiki Hishinuma of Tokyo, 2004, left; Tod's Omotesando building, Tokyo, 2004, Toyo Ito, right

By Carter B. Horsley

"Skin + Bones" is a fabulous exhibition with superb accompanying catalogue that explores evolving relationships between fashion and architecture. It was shown at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Anglees from November 29, 2006 to March 5, 2007 and at the National Art Center in Tokyo from June 6 to August 12, 2007. While some of the similarities in recent years between the two disciplines are simplistic, many of them are very sophisticated, very interesting and very fascinating. Most of the included dresses and buildings are spectacular.

"In both frashio and architecture," Brooke Hodge wrote in her catalogue essay, "the early 1980s were marked by significant design events and advances that have contributed to cultural shifts in each field. Japanese fashion designers Kawakubo and Yohji Yamamoto first presented their work during the Paris ready-to-wear collection shows in April 1981. The oversized, often asymmetrical black clothing they showed featured intentional holes, tatters and unfinished edges that stood in stark contrast to the elegantly decorative, crisply tailored, and formfitting looks being shown by the majority of designers and, as a result, challenged accepted ideas of ashion, feminity, and beauty. The following year, architecture Bernard Tschumi won the international competition to design the Parc de la Villette in Paris (completed in 1998). His project, and the resulting collaboration between architect Peter Eisenman and philosopher Jacques Derrida, served to introduce ideas of deonstruction to a much larger audience."

Yoshiki Hishinuma was born in Sendai, Japan, in 1958 and launched his own label in 1996 in Paris after working briefly for Miyake Issey. He is known for using for innovative textiles and unusual shapes and the authors note that he "combines new technology with traditional Japanese techniques such as shibori or tie-dying to develop textiles with effects like pleating, puckering, and crinkling that provide texture and volume.

Hishinuma's Inside-Out 2 Way Dress was first shown in 2004 the same year that Toyo Ito's wonderful Omotesando Building for Tod's was completed in Toyko.

Ivory suspension suit by Ralph Rucci Back of ivory suspenson suit Pauline Tunic by Rucci

"Ivory Suspension Suit," by Ralph Rucci, 2005, left and center; "Pauline Tunic," by Ralph Rucci, 2002-3

Ralph Rucci (b. 1957 in Philadelphia) made his debut fashion collection in 1981. The "Pauline Tunic" of 2002-3 features hand-looped ribbons, according to the catalogue, "loosely appliqued to a long black gazar chemise that trails to the ground, creating an elaborate three-dimensional surface and a billowing silhouette. Rucci has been credited with resurrecting gazar, a heavy silk organza that was first developed by Swiss textile firm Abraham for Cristobal Balenciaga in 1958. Rucci favors toothy fabrics...for their sculptural qualities....Another Rucci innovation is seen in his suspension garments, including the Ivory Suspension Suit (spring/autumn 2005). Areas of the garment are broken up into fragments and reconnected through a system of hand-knotted threads so that they seem suspended and appear as forms in space, similar to those in Russian Constructivist paintings by Kasimir Malevich."

"Skin jacket" by Elena Manferdini

"Skin Jacket" from "Bones" collection 2005-06 by Elena Manferdini

Elena Manferdini (b. 1976, Bologna) "approaches the design of a garment as she would the skin of a building by using tools and techniques more commonly applied to architectural and aeronautical design," the catalogue maintained, adding that "trained as both a civil engineer and an architecture, Manerdini has included fashion in her interdisciplinary practice since 2002. She creates garments using Maya three-dimensional modeling software, translating patterns through a machining computer application to laser-cut individual pieces of fabric and texturize them with slashes, cuts, or perforations....The cuts are meant to create three-dimensionality on the curvature of the body. They move and stretch, they open and distort as you walk."

Dress from "Scanners" collection of Alexander McQueen

Dress from "Scanners" collection by Alexander McQueen (2003-4)

Alexander McQueen, who was born in London in 1969, is known for his impeccable tailoring and architectonic forms and the elaborate sets of his presentations. The catalogue notes that "His Scanners collection (autumn/winter 2003-04), for instance, was shown on a set depicting a stark snowy landscape below a glass bridge that also served as a wind tunnel. Conjuring up visiions of a nomadic traveler in a futuristic environment, the presentation featured McQueen's signature A-line skirts and bifitted bodices in ornate or geometrically patterned fabrics, many of which were lavishly embroidered....McQueen's ability to combine contrasting cqualities - such as hard and soft, rigid and fluid, violent and fragile - in the same garment is evident in the way the layers of a delicate fluted underskirt peek out from the stiff exterior cladding."

"Mobius Dress" by J. Meejin Yoon

"Mobius Dress" by J. Meejin Yoon, 2005

J. Meejin Yoon was born in Seoul i 1972 and the catalogue notes that "her multidisciplinary practice MY Studio encompasses architecture, site-specific installations, and, on occasion, fashion design. Yoon's work falls between the conceptual and the concrete, and many of her small-scale conceptual designs enable her to test ideas that she may later incorporate into large-scale, realizable projects....Made of white felt, the Mobius Dress takes the shape of a Mobius strip, a loop made by flipping one end of a rectangular strip and then connecting it to the opposite end. By cutting while following the contours of the strip two times around, three connected loops are formed. When the cut edges of the dress are zipped together, the garment encloses the body in a stiff A-line shape. When unzipped, the dress unfolds and its intertwining loops cascade to the floor."

Selfridges in Birmingham, England by Future Systems

Selfridges Department Store, Birmingham, England, Future Systems of London, 2003

One of the most spectacular and unusual buildings in recent years is Selfridges Department Store in Birmingham, England, that was completed in 2003 to designs by Future Systems of London. The book notes that the project "takes the form of a four-story amorphous blob clad in a blue stucco skin studded with fifteen thousand shimmering anodized-aluminum disks." "The shape and skin of the building are so unusual that it seems alien next to its neighbor, a nineteenth-century church," it continued, noting that the partners of Future Systems, Jay Kaplicky and Amanda Levete, "compare the undulating curves of the building to those of a waistline and the fluency of its billowing shape to the drape of fabric." "Citing snakeskin and the 1960s paillette dresses of Paco Rabanne as inspirations, the architects designed a cladding system that wraps all surfaces of the building, including the roof, in one continuous movement, confounding conventional notions of front, back, and side facades."

"Sun Tower" in Seoul by Morphosis

"Sun Tower," by Thom Mayne of Morphosis, Seoul, South Korea, 1997

The 1997 Sun Tower in Seoul, South Korea was designed by Thom Mayne of Morphosis and is a 10-story building that combines retail and office space and is distinguished by its two-layer skin comprising an inner steel-and-glass building envelope and an outer performated aluminium-mesh screen. Morphosis would employ such a screen several years later in 2009 for a new building for Cooper Union on the Bowery at 7th Street.

The catalogue notes that "the screen wraps and folds over the inner envelope like a garment, erupting into an abstract crown of sculptural forms on the roof," adding that "the folds of the screen are inspired by origami as well as by the client's identity; there is a remarkable similarity between Morphosis's schematic diagrams for the folding skin and the patterns used to cut and assemble pieces of a garment." "Shifting between translucent and opaque depending on the viewer's perspective of the time of day, the second skin serves both aesthetic and practical purposes, functioning simultaneously as a brise-soleil or sunscreen, an enclosure, and an oversized urban billboard."

Seattle Central Library by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture

Seattle Central Library, by Rem Koolhaas of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, 1999-2004

One of the best buildings in the United States in recent decades is the Seattle Central Library that was completed in 2004 and designed by Rem Koolhaas of the Office for Metropolitan Architecture. The building's bold, dramatic, cantilevered form is, according to the catalogue, "wrapped in a mesh skin of diamond-shaped panes of glass (much like a fishnet stocking) set into a matching steel grid that operates as both a transparent curtain wall and part of the structural systems. As Herbert Muschamp described, 'the interior's overhanging platforms have been draped with a metal and glass building skin, as if it were a piece of cloth. Hence the exterior folds."

"Bridge of Aspiration" by Wilkinson Eyre

"Bridge of Aspiration," skybridge, Foral Street, London, by Wilkinson Eyre Architects, 2001-3

Chris Wilkinson and James Eyre of Wilkinson Eyre Architects created an accordion-like skybridge between the Royal Ballet School and the Royal Opera House in the Covent Garden section of London 2001-3. The skybridge is known as the "Bridge of Aspiration" and is at the fourth story.

The catalogue provides the following commentary:

"Because the openings in each building are not directly aligned with earh other in elevation or laterally, the architects offered a graceful solution: a sinuous aluminum spine supports the bridge's sleevelike enclosure, pleated with twenty-three square aluminum portals and glazed intervalas. Each portal rotates four degrees from its neighboring one and shifts slightly to accommodate the skewered alignment."

Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles by Gehry

Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles, 1987-2003, Frank O. Gehry


Click here to order the book from

Use the Search Box below to quickly look up articles at this site on specific artists, architects, authors, buildings and other subjects


Home Page of The City Review