Issey Miyake: Coat

As we move around, the facades of buildings and the clothing of people offer us a nonverbal system of communication. At the architectural boundaries enclosing empty space and the garment-boundary enclosing a human body the designers of buildings and clothes have much to communicate to the viewer. There is also a pathway of communication between those who commissioned the building and those who decided to wear the clothers. This implies that it is possible to reveal a notation system for this boundary language.

The language of architecture is a language that depends on double-coding. It speaks to fellow architects and to the general public. An oversized door, for example, informs the public of a "main entrance to an important building'. At the same time, a second code can speak to fellow-architects who have moved beyond functionalism and can enjoy quotations, references, literary allusions, witticisms and arcane meanings. A classical portico on a new office block, for example, might say to other architects "I admire the geometrical purity of the classical tradition but believe it needs re-interpretation for our own time'. This second code operates through architectural styles which are current in the profession..

Our response to clothing also depends on double-coding. Before people speak to one another, their clothing makes a statement that expresses their sex, age, class, occupation, origin and personality, as well as what they are or what they want to be at a particular moment. There is also a second language of the couturier which operates through the exchange of fashion symbols between designers.

Boundaries themselves constitute a means of communication, so why is a notation system that can only approximate this communication helpful? People move around well without the help of geographers, think without the help of philosophers and psychologists, eat without the assistance of nutritionists. The "academics" who study the details and causes behind the various aspects of human life are not there so much to help us as they are to understand, in terms as comprehensive and inclusive as possible, what being human means and how being human works. In particular, they want to know to what extent humans are different from other animals, and a large part of the answer to this question involves humans' ability to use systems of substitutions. Words, ideas, tokens, and marks continually operate as if they were real things, but their value is their portability. They function as a "currency," that frees us from having to have literal things in front of us constantly. Boundary language looks in particular at these symbolic exchanges and studies them in terms that often seem literary or psychological. This language also defines new values which are not measurable in scientific terms, but extend into the realm of the spirit.

Fashion and architecture

Fashion is essentially about expressing human individuality, or defining a group or culture. Fashion and architecture are therefore two routes to selfhood. Urban planners believe that they have persuaded people that it is very fruitful to think about cities and buildings in terms of their influence upon the self. Also, the human self is constantly changing and architects and planners have been urged to take this into account. In modern society, fashion as style has become an important component of personal identity and public statements of selfhood. One of the most important aspects of modernity is the importance of fashion in clothes and adornment as markers of self and as a uniform of group membership. Fashion, as an immediate statement of identity, has become a significant marker that can make an individual's statement of conformation, opposition, rebellion and resistance-confrontation through dressing aimed to shock. This is a mark of fashion as art, just as a union of art and architecture reaches great heights in places of worship and other public places. Both froms of expression are placed at the surface of an ideal, a belief or an expression of power, and the role of an individual is subsumed in a collective purpose.

Fashion involves a rapid cycle of stylistic change. Architects now tend to think of buildings as points of view that eventually come to an end and are replaced by structures based on different sensibilities. Although architects have habitually maintained an intellectual and commercial distance from fashion, fashion has always played an important role in the formation of notions of modernity in architecture. From the late nineteenth-century to the 1930s, architects frequently used fashion metaphors. These metaphors were used as a sign of frivolity, emphemerality, and waste. Often, there was a confrontation along gender lines: men's fashion was seen as functional and "timeless," and thus, a model of modernity; women's fashion was viewed as decorative and transitory, representing all that must be abolished.

After the ascendancy of Chanel and the revolution in women's dress in the 1920s, women's fashion became increasingly a paradigm for functionalism and efficiency. Modern architects' interest in fashion began to extend beyond metaphor to actual practice. Architects as diverse as Frank Lloyd Wright, Josef Hoffmann, Henry Van de Velde, and Peter Behrens all designed women's clothes. Later in the 1950s Le Corbusier would join them, although with less success. More recently, the roles have reversed, with trained architects (among them Pierre Cardin, Gianfranco Ferré, and Corrèges) choosing fashion as their career. In the 1990s, the architectural label "deconstructionism" was transferred to fashion.

Textiles are the common ground of architecture and fashion. Fabrics are among the oldest and most pervasive art forms. They are primarily utilitarian but beauty, tactility, and technical sophistication contribute much to their status as vital artefacts of our material culture. Textiles are also cultural icons that that can help to reveal the economic and social profile of a particular society. Their uses range from surface decoration of bodies and walls to practical applications in the manufacture of tyres and fishing nets. For architects, various forms of cladding and 'stick-on' motives have functioned to define a building through its facade as a fabric defines a garment. Plastic now imprints surface messages on buildings and clothes.

For centuries Japan has been associated with a rich textile tradition and was a leading centre of cotton and silk production. In recent years, it has re-emerged as an influential and dynamic force in this industry. Artists and designers working in Japan are combining historical techniques with contemporary tools and technology to create some of the most inventive examples of 21st century design. Using both natural and industrial materials -- feathers, soil, paper, and silk to stainless steel, polyester, silicone, and polyurethane -- which redefine our notion of what textiles can be. The situation at the end of the 20th century was reviewed in the exhibition Structure And Surface: Contemporary Japanese Textiles organized by the Museum of Modern Art and the Saint Louis Art Museum.

The exhibition introduced a basic common notation based on into six categories that described the predominant characteristics of each: transparent, dyed, reflective, printed, sculpted, and layered. The grouping of a textile into one category does not preclude its relevance in another. Some of these fabrics, for example, may rely on a printing technique to achieve a three-dimensional relief or a layering process to produce a shimmering metallic surface. The divisions served only as a structure enabling alternative journeys of discovery and a guide to creative processes that have transformed flat planes into incredible inventions in cloth.

From this modern perspective, textiles are relevant to studies of the surface aspects of architecture, which have commonly focused on ornament and fashion. Like clothes, which can be much more than their structural frames. In this context, inter-related themes of structure and surface provide common ground for architects and couturiers to examine common issues such as ephemerality, superficiality, and superfluity. The question of superfluity has constantly exercised art. Which detail, which flourish, which luscious scene is essential, and which is simply surplus to requirements? In recent architectural theory, these attributes have often carried connotations of "effeminacy" or "femininity," raising issues about gender and architecture.

During the nineteenth century, debates about the relative importance of structure and ornament in architecture were intense and inconclusive, but by the 1920s, it was clear that Loos's dictum "Ornament is crime" had set the moral tone for the next decades. In fact, it was not until Venturi's condemnation of 'ducks' and the celebration of the 'decorated shed' in the late 1960s and early 1970s that boundaries in architecture between ornament and structure have become increasingly blurred.

Venturi gave the label "Ducks" to buildings whose very shapes are meant to portend the activity carried on within. The name implies the slightly ridiculous and comes from a famous building built in the form of a giant duck on Long Island housing an unpretentious restaurant specializing in poultry.

His "Decorated sheds" are fairly mundane structures (hotels, restaurants, casinos, gas stations, etc.) where large-scale decorations, either as text (e.g., "McDonald's") or as obvious symbols (e.g., golden arches) tell the quickly-moving passer-by what's afoot within these uninspiring boxes by generating enthusiasm or some other positive emotion the building itself cannot arouse.

Venturi illustrated his point in part with an analysis of his 1963 Guild House in Philadelphia. This is a relatively mundane retirement home whose ornamentation makes it for Venturi a decorated shed. While creating a functional, boxy six-storey building suited to its purpose, he subtly imbued it with historicizing ornamentation that adds meaning. Through the clever use of white-glazed bricks, placement of windows, and other devices, he suggested, in a highly attenuated form, a renaissance palazzo, giving a heroic scale, and by implication, a certain dignity to this retirement home.

Selfridges Building: Birmingham
Post-modern architecture frequently uses old structural motifs (keystone, coining, the Greek 'orders') in a purely ornamental fashion; "deconstructivist" architecture in its exuberant displays of engineering virtuosity endows structure with a decorative character. "Blob" architecture expresses a movement which equates structure and surface and in this sense provides common ground for architects and designers of clothes, particularly where the aims of a body covering is to disguise, or ignore the underlying anatomical structure.

Hussein Chalyan

Hussein Chalyan is not just a fashion designer. His interests range across so many disciplines; his work crosses many boundaries. He graduated
I16 years ago. For his graduation show he buried his degree collection in a friend's back garden to see how it would decompose before digging it up and sending it down the catwalk. This collection was snapped up by fashion buyer Joan Burstein. It was displayed it in Browns, one of London's most prestigious boutiques - an accolade she had bestowed only once before, on John Galliano.

Chalyan went on to design dresses suspended by helium balloons, paper clothes that could be sent through the post, a controversial burqa that left the wearer nude from the waist down, and dresses that 'grew' and then `shrank' again before our very eyes. He encased heads in wooden pods and made a 'jumbo jet' dress that spread its wings. His fashion shows are more like art installations. Models move to music provided by Spanish flamenco clappers, a Parisian acapella group, a Gregorian choir, electric guitars, a glockenspiel. His collections are about cultural displacement, aerodynamics, genetics, identity or solitude

His collection Afterwords, on the stage at Sadler's Wells was set is a blank white room featuring 1950s-style furniture. To the haunting sounds of a Bulgarian female choir, an average family appears: father, mother, grandmother and children. They sit stony-faced, looking at the audience. Behind them, models walk by in simple underslips. They proceed to remove the covers from the chairs and wear them as dresses. The chairs themselves fold up to become suitcases. Finally, a model steps into the centre of a wooden coffee table and, as she lifts it up to her waist, it elegantly telescopes into a skirt, with the result that eventually the room is empty and lifeless. This was Chalayan's comment on the need for refugees to keep reminders of home as they flee -inspired not only by images of Kosovo, but also the conflict between the Turkish and Greek populations in his native Cyprus.

Chalayan, the only child of Turkish Cypriot parents, was born in Nicosia in 1970. He grew up on a divided island. 'We could see the border and so you grow up with this fascination for what's going on on the other side, but you can never actually see it.' As a child, he says, 'I spent a lot of time on my own, but there were things I had a passion for. I loved building things, creating environments.'
IMAGE0019.JPGWhen he was 11 his parents separated and Chalayan travelled to England with his father, who has worked here as a restaurateur for more than 30 years. He was sent first to prep school in Hendon, `where I couldn't really speak any English', and then, at 13, to board at Highgate, north London. `A bloody prison... I felt like I was torn away from my mother. I didn't want to leave Cyprus. I wasn't ready to come here. It was really brutal... it made me really independent.' He was confronted with another culture shock when his father remarried. `My stepmother's family is Irish. We used to go to Mass and everything... In fact, it was pretty absurd when you think of the different situations. One minute I'd be with my mother in Cyprus eating vine leaves, the next minute it would be bacon and cabbage in Limerick.'

He was 19 when he decided to embark on a career in fashion, arriving in Leamington Spa to study an art foundation course. He is obsessed with the body. The body for him is like a mini universe and he wanted to investigate new ways of looking at the body. He says 'I wasn't really interested in just becoming a designer. I was there because I loved ideas.'

Chalayan has made five short films. More like installations or art pieces, they are all owned by collectors or museums and feature his passion for complex ideas: dislocation, environment, genetics. `These films become monuments to my design work, they spark off each other.'

The architect Zaha Hadid is someone he admicres immensely. They first met in 1997 when they were invited to speak at a seminar on the parallels between fashion and architecture at the Tate.


Precis of article on Hussein Chalayan's work at the Design Museum, London 2009
Telegraph Magazine, 24 Jan 2009

Clothes: 'sexual satisfactions'

The practical outcomes of the boundary language for individual and sexual differentiation was first described by J. C. Fluegal in 1930 in his book The Psychology of Clothes.

………………..The capacity for rapid change which women's 'modish' dress possesses - that very capacity which man, in his greater sartorial stability had so long despised - has enabled woman suddenly to become reasonable in her costume, and to adopt clothes that are superior to man's in nearly every respect. So great is this difference that it is worth while to attempt a brief enumeration of the chief points in which women's clothes, as they are at the present moment, allow of greater satisfaction than do men's.

(1) The use of a far greater variety of colour.
(2) The use of a far greater variety of stuffs, including an almost exclusive right to artificial silk - that most useful and attractive sartorial invention of modem science - together with other materials that combine lightness with elegance and that allow some passage of the ultra-violet rays.
(3) Much greater individual liberty as regards choice of materials, cut, and general style of dress.
(4) Much lighter weight of clothes {according to recent measurements in America and Germany, men's summer clothes weigh from three to ten times as much as women's).
(5) Much greater adaptability to varying seasons. Women can wear the lightest clothes in summer and thick fur coats in winter; men's clothes are admittedly much hotter in summer, and it is, in some countries at any rate, considered somewhat unmanly to wear fur coats in winter.
(6) Much more rapid and efficient adaptability to the different temperatures of various environments. Women can adapt by wearing a thin layer of essential clothes, and then putting on other layers over this - jumper, coat, overcoat, etc. Modem convention dictates that man should always wear his coat as an essential outer garment. He sometimes makes surreptitious and inconvenient adjustments by taking off his waistcoat or putting on an extra one - obviously from all points of view an inferior method to that of women.
(7) Greater freedom of movement. Except perhaps in high winds, trousers cause a slightly greater impediment to leg movement than do short skirts, while women's upper garments certainly allow of considerably freer arm and trunk movements than do men's coats.
(8) Much greater cleanliness.
(9) An exclusive right to exposure of parts of the body other than the face and hands.
(10) Greater convenience for putting on and off.
(11) Absence of constriction in parts of the body where freedom is especially desirable for comfort and health (a free neck, whereas men are condemned to the collar-and-tie system, with its threefold, or more usually fourfold, bandage round the neck).
(12) Greater convenience for packing and transport.

Biology of surface display

Although feathers are light, a bird's plumage weighs two or three times more than its skeleton, since many bones are hollow and contain air sacs. A corresponding larger proportion of a bird’s metabolism is channelled into the production of feathers to replace those lost by annual moults. Furthermore, birds are more readily distinguished by the amounts, distribution and colour patterns of feathers than by differences between their skeletons. This is because sexual display is governed by the boundary-language of feathers, which has evolved to redistribute feathers to make distinctive body shapes and colours. This is evident in the evolutionary differences between members of the parrot family. Within this group of birds the workings of the system of feather evolution is particularly apectacular in the cockatoos. The Birds of Paradise provide other examples of dramatic feather displays that trigger pair bonding. In this group, sexual display of the males involves the rapid rearrangement of feathers which can change the entire shape of the male in seconds, sometimes giving it a transient non-bird metallic profile. Finally, the genetic plasticity of plumage is evident in the agricultural domestication of birds, such as chickens and turkeys, and the development of ‘fancy breeds’ of pigeons and canaries by human hobbyists. Production of change in body shape and surface colour and texture drives both avian hobbyists and fashion designers.

Evolution of Cockatoos

The parrots are a distinctive group of birds comprising approximately 350 species. Several unique characteristics of the parrots suggest that they compose a unified group, including a distinctive bill and a unique feather pigment. The cockatoos, family Cacatuidae, have long been recognized as a unique group within the parrots. Morphologically, cockatoos are distinguished from other parrots by having an erectile crest and lacking the ‘dyck’ texture in their feathers, which produces blue and green in the plumage of other parrots. Cockatoos possess a gall bladder, a unique iris, paired patches of powder-down on the back, and several other characters that separate them from other parrots.

The ancestral relationships which prove that the Cockatoos are a distinct group descended from a common ancestor has come from DNA analysis. This research placed the Palm Cockatoo (Probosciger aterrimus) as the first cockatoo to split, followed by a subgroup containing the black-cockatoos (Calyptorhynchus spp.), the Cockariel (Nymphicus hollandicus), and the Gang-gang Cockatoo (Callocephalon fimbriatum); followed by the Galah (Eolophus roseicapillus) and Major Mitchell's Cockatoo (Cacatua leadbeateri), respectively; and finally followed by two subgroups of "white" cockatoos: (1) the "corella" group (Red-vented Cockatoo [Cacatua haematuropygia], Goffin's Cockatoo [C. goffini], Little Corella [C. sanguinea], Ducorps's Cockatoo [C. ducorpsii]); and (2) the "galerita" clade (Sulphur-crested Cockatoo [C. galerita], Salmon-crested Cockatoo [C. moluccensis], White Cockatoo [C. alba], Blue-eyed Cockatoo [C. ophthalmica], and Lesser Sulphur-crested Cockatoo [C. sulphurea]).

Biogeographic information supports the hypothesis that the cockatoos originated in Australia and dispersed in two separate migrations to the island regions of Indonesia, New Guinea, and the South Pacific.

Breeds of Canaries

The Canary (Serinus canaria) sometimes called the Island Canary, Tame Canary or Atlantic Canary, is a small bird in the finch family. It is native to the Azores, the Canary Islands, and Madeira. The wild canary is regarded as a sub-species of the Serin - (Serinus Serinus) which inhabits central and southern Europe and occasionally visits Britain. The wild canary is a dull, green bird. The first all-yellow birds were not bred until 1650, some 250 years after their discovery. By the turn of the nineteenth century canary mania was raging across Europe and the United States. There is little doubt that all the varieties of Canary have been evolved from the wild Canary (Serinus Canaria), of the Canary Islands in the Azores and Madeira, and all derived from one species. It is comparatively easy for us, in these days of scientific progress, to come to this conclusion; but we can understand the great difficulty that 19th Century writers had in understanding the origins of a bird, of which twenty-nine distinct varieties existed by the early 18th Century. Observers could not believe that all those varieties could have come from a single ancestor, and as a result many fanciful theories of origin were given; some based on supposed fact, but even these were false. Among these are the myths of the Chaffinch- Canary Hybrid, the Yellowhammer-Canary Hybrid, and other unknown hybrids of today.

Language of teenage fashion

Language of teenage fashion

Policing the fashion business

Policing the fashion business

Picture Gallery

Picture gallery