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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 September 2018

When fashion and interiors collide

We chart the shifting relationship between these two creative fields

A cushion from the new Gucci Decor collection, which launches in September.
A cushion from the new Gucci Decor collection, which launches in September.

A wide-eyed cat with a garland of bright yellow flowers at its neck stares from a pink velvet cushion with corners topped by oversized tassels. The piece wouldn’t look out of place in your grandmother’s front room, and yet it is undeniably alluring. It could only be Gucci.

The Italian fashion house announced last week that it is launching a home décor line – an eccentric range of cushions, candles, trays, chairs, tables, screens and wallpaper that is as brilliantly bizarre as one might expect. “The idea is not to prescribe a particular decorative look, but to provide elements that allow for living spaces to be customised,” Gucci says. “[Creative director Alessandro Michele’s] collection of items for interiors is intended to allow for a flexible and personal approach to decoration, bringing an accent of Gucci’s contemporary romanticism into the home.”

With prices rumoured to be starting from about $190, the collection will be available for purchase online and in select specialty stores from September. Many of the outlandish objects will ring a bell; the floral patterning on some of the wallpapers is lifted straight from Gucci’s autumn 2015 collection, for example, while Michele’s signature menagerie of animals (colourful snakes, formidable-looking bees and big cats with their teeth bared) have been transported from clothing, bags and other accessories, and transplanted onto cushions and candles. Scents for the candles and incense were developed by Michele, while smaller porcelain pieces are produced by Richard Ginori, a renowned Florentine company founded in 1735.

All in all, this colourful collection is a prime example of the magic that can occur when the worlds of fashion and interiors coalesce.

The two fields are irrevocably intertwined, even if fashion is the high-profile, high-octane younger sister to interiors’ more considered older brother. Traditionally, trends that are seen on the catwalk have taken around a year to find their way into our homes, but changes in the way that fashion is consumed mean that those cycles are speeding up, and the relationship between fashion and interiors is intensifying as a result, says Victoria Redshaw, founder and lead futurist at the trend forecasting company, Scarlet Opus.

“Fashion and interiors are intrinsically linked. There used to be this thing that if a woman had something in her wardrobe, if she wore a certain colour, pattern or material for a season, then by the time the comparable season came round again - so the next spring/summer, for example – then she’d have it in her home,” Redshaw explains. “But now it seems like everything is launching at the same time. Technology has a lot to do with it. Fashion shows are being shown live and orders are being taken immediately [as part of see-now, buy-now].”

Redshaw points to more casual silhouettes as an example of how trends move across the porous divide between fashion and interiors. “In fashion, things are a lot more gender neutral right now,” she says. “That influences silhouette and shape, more than anything, so we are seeing more relaxed forms. And I think that is reflected in demand for living in a more relaxed way.

“The minimalism that we’ve known – which has been a little more stiff and a little more difficult to work with, a bit hard edged and clinical – will be much softer. So, softer sofa shapes, slouchier seating pieces, less structure and more deconstruction, which is all coming straight from the catwalks,” she continues.

The growing number of designers, like Michele, who are crossing the fashion/interiors divide, are also breaking down the barriers between the two creative fields. Because when fashion designers do dip into the world of interiors, they can bring a whole new perspective. As Christopher Sharpe, co-founder of The Rug Company, recognised early on

Sharpe clearly remembers his first meeting with the late, great Alexander McQueen. “He was, typically, very impatient, with a small attention span,” he says.

Sharpe, who was joined by his wife and business partner, Suzanne, was hoping to convince McQueen to design a carpet for The Rug Company, which at the time was a relatively unknown operation.

“He sat down and didn’t say anything. All we could do was explain to him how the rugs were made – the sheep on this Tibetan plateau, how the wool is sheared and taken over the mountain, washed in Himalayan waters and then hand-spun. I got about 80 per cent through, and he just stood up and walked out. And just as he was leaving the room, he turned around and said: ‘Yeah, it’s good; we’ll do it’.”

That was The Rug Company’s first tie-up with a famous fashion designer. It has since collaborated with such juggernauts as Diane von Furstenburg, Marni, Paul Smith, Vivienne Westwood and, in a collection that was launched this year, Elie Saab. The brand’s latest collection comes courtesy of a tie-up with menswear designer Thom Browne, whose three rugs reflect the carefully considered lines of his handcrafted suits, and are produced using techniques that are specific to fashion.

For Cable Knit, Browne transferred the traditional knit patterning of a classic Aran jumper on to a carpet. The design demanded that The Rug Company’s weavers develop a technique, which essentially involved hand carving the pattern into the rug’s pile.

First, the pattern was drawn by hand and then pin-pricked into very thin paper. This was then laid on top of a plain, hand-knotted rug and covered in fine chalk dust, which seeped through the holes and created a template. The paper was removed, and the weavers were left to follow the chalk template, carefully cutting and carving into the wool pile.

The Repp carpet is a further example of how traditional style elements from the world of fashion can be reworked into products for the home. Something of a Thom Browne signature, the Repp motif first appeared on the ties of English schoolboys in the early 1800s, and has been subtly reworked onto Browne’s most striking carpet design.

“Most of the designers we work with have never designed rugs before so we explain the different weaving techniques and the materials that are available, and then allow them to have the freedom to create,” says Sharpe. “We don’t want to give them limitations, but effectively give them a blank canvas to work on. That’s how we get the most exciting results.”

In the case of Elie Saab, the couturier’s exquisite, intricately embellished aesthetic was reinterpreted into three carpets featuring some of his signature style elements. Lace, florals, texture and abstract patterning were all incorporated into the celebrated designer’s first foray into interior design. For In Bloom, two oversized bouquets extend from either end of the carpet to meet in the middle. There is unexpected restraint in the colour palette, which consists of shimmering shades of gun metal grey, interspersed with pops of green and teal. For Lace Leaves, Saab’s trademark lacework is reinterpreted in an abstract leaf motif picked out in raised silk yarns.

Elsewhere, an exclusive collaboration with Pottery Barn has seen Indian designer Sabyasachi Mukherjee’s embellished Indian outfits translated into an eclectic collection of glassware, quilts and cushions. Mukherjee has taken traditional techniques such as hand dyeing, embroidery and block printing, and applied them to his home accessories, so tableware is emblazoned with vibrant motifs that speak of exotic lands, and cushions are crafted from sumptuous, densely patterned fabrics. “Indian textiles are the hallmark of luxury,” says the designer, who is a self-professed “textile lover and colour lover”.

More often than not, it is designers from the fashion world who move into the interiors sphere, and trends and ideas formed on the runway that move across to our homes, rather than the other way around. But this is not an exclusively one-way street. Marble effects have made their way on to clothing, most impressively at Balenciaga and Prabal Gurung; Dior has reproduced the patterning of ancient Chinese vases on haute couture gowns; and designers have taken their cues from outdoor furniture and crafted bags out of wicker, most notably at Prada and Stella McCartney. But the prize for best use of interior motifs in a fashion context must go to Dolce & Gabbana, which has taken the traditional blue-and-white patterning of the Mediterranean’s majolica tiles and transported them directly onto dresses, bags, shoes and most, recently, childrenswear.

Redshaw is predicting more of this “reverse” cross pollination in the future. “We’ve seen some wood inlay coming through in fashion, in jewellery and on the tops of handbags, but also on the tops of dresses. For us, the most interesting thing is this reverse influence – the interiors industry influencing fashion.

“We are seeing the fashion industry looking at the materials in interiors and this will be very interesting for the future.”

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