A look at this classic architecture movement’s impact on fashion
By Lucy Hasani
The recently re-emergent popularity of luxury fashion house Balenciaga comes as no surprise considering Gen Z’s obsession with history. Whether it’s art or architecture, music or clothing styles, rebooting the past has become increasingly lucrative.
Often, however, the question is where the subtle distinction between inspiration and innovation lies: sometimes what at first looks entirely new is, in fact, a cheeky homage to yesteryear; other times, what initially seems familiar is actually groundbreaking. This is especially true when creators borrow esthetics from artforms other than their own, as is arguably the case with Balenciaga under the leadership of Creative Director Demna Gvasalia.
But what was Bauhaus and what were its esthetics? Founded in 1919 Weimar, Germany, the movement sought to reimagine the world by unifying art, architecture and interior design with one simple principle: form should follow function. Among its most iconic artistic examples are Piet Mondrian’s “Tableau” paintings, featuring variously colored squares and rectangles between thick black lines. But most Western cities today feature multiple examples of Bauhaus and Bauhaus-inspired architecture in the form of buildings consisting of simple geometric shapes.
As for the most obvious example of Bauhaus’s hold on Balenciaga, we need look no further than the interior of the fashion house’s new flagship store. Its floor-to-ceiling concrete interior and exposed staircase give new meaning to by avoiding decor entirely. Similarly, its release of simple, basic clothing, like a hoodie with the fashion house’s brand name on it, exemplifies the Bauhaus esthetic through it emphasis on the unadorned
Nevertheless, Balenciaga is not the only fashion house to have referenced Bauhaus as inspiration. Yves Saint Laurent also paid homage to the movement through its geometric renderings of the Mondrian Collection. This convergence of fashion and art is one that pays homage to the De Stijl style of the early 20th century.
Some have chosen to portray the movement more literally however, incorporating the design of Bauhaus posters into the clothes themselves. Mary Katrantzou’s AW18 Collection revived posters intended for the 1923 Bauhaus exhibition. This time, though, instead of high-end art dealers, the audience was luxury fashion buyers. Creating an organic symbiosis between these two industries, Katrantzou’s play on unity has since become a pattern for other luxury brands.Designers have also injected elements of the Bauhaus into their choice of colors. Associating the primary colors, blue, yellow and red, with the movement gave them utility not just in art but fashion too. For instance, the unconventional juxtaposition of colors popularized by artist Josef Albers inspired modern day designer Roksanda Ilinic to create a collection that pushed boundaries in fashion in the same way Bauhaus did in art.
As today’s designers seek an ever-greater unity between art and fashion, one of their main tools is to sew allusion and homage into their form, design and color choices. The Bauhaus movement, specifically, has clearly inspired numerous designers, including, most recently, Balenciaga. Using the historical fine-art movement as a mood board, these designers have sought to translate the ineffable into something tangible. Whatever we feel about the results, then, this focus on abstract shapes, raw materials and functionality in the clothing space, has become an inspiration in its own right.