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BERLINARTLINK Design and Architecture Distilled in Fashion

Alice Bardos

Abstract sounds and fashion meet concrete materials and processes in the INNOCAD exhibition. With the meticulous collaboration of INNOCAD architecture firm, fashion designer Sabrina Stradlober and the sound compositions of Martin Lesjak and Severin Su, the show offers a multifaceted reflection on each field’s contribution and their interconnectivity. The take-away from this discipline destabilizing show is a deeper question of what living and exhibiting spaces impart upon individuals who pass through them.

‘Golden Nugget’, the mixed use residential and office space building that went up in Graz, Austria in 2005, was originally a contemporary addition to the historic centre of the city. Its metallic gold surface is a subtle allusion to the initial inspiration of the building’s layout, which was planned to abide by the ancient golden ratio, once thought to be the underlying principle of beauty. The fundamental elements have been reproduced in the garment. The material, woven of metal fibres, wraps and creases like origami around one shoulder and leaves the other naked, bearing a resemblance to ancient fashion. Though true to expectation, the piece’s shape compliments the human form tapering at the waist and flaring at the bust and near the calves. In the mirror, the dressed mannequin is side-by-side with the reflection of a film showing the development of the building in Graz. From the juxtaposition of the two, what arises is the essence of Old World glamour which not only underpins the original building, but also the community out of which it has arisen. Though it has now expanded to the edges of contemporary structure, the resulting aesthetic elegance carries with it a timelessness.

‘The Rolling Stones’ piece is a suit of armour made from finely cut rock, bent into plates fanning out around the body and also jutting out in a spiral bulbous shell on the back. The piece leaves a Tolkien-esque impression: dark, sophisticated and almost impermeable. The garment drew inspiration from INNOCAD’s interior design project of the same name, and entailed the renovation of an old armoury which now stands as a tourist centre. Though the obvious first sentiment that the designs evoke is one of protection, the grounding effect of cobblestone and its connotations of natural elements such as rivers, forests, sedimentation, erosion, deposition—the calm cyclical processes of time—also bring about a subtle calming psychological effect. In the presence of the ‘Golden Nugget’ piece, design spoke to needs and vanity, but in the ‘Rolling Stones’ suit, design reaches deeper into potentially unconscious processes.

The sound of ‘Moving Floors’ is a muffled, fuzzy pulsing of frequency: a digitally modified version of the actual acoustic qualities of the woolen material that the garment is made out of. The ominous onyx robe swallows its mannequin and imposes peaks upon its shoulders. It instills a feeling of fear and dominance. The cut slips on the back of the piece, the repetition of its accompanying audio, as well as the contours of the carpet design that the two were conceptualized from, add dizzying topographic layers to the installations. Like with the ‘Moving Floors’ carpet design, this layering acts to obscure reality. On the carpet, visitors feel as if they are floating, and within the garment the individual’s own contours are drowned out. This relationship between material, space, and people is one of power, through which the design lends its properties to illusion and anonymity.

The translating of a concept from space to fashion is a process of distillation that allows for observers to experience the more intense impact of the central design. From the repertoire of INNOCAD exhibited at the Architektur Galerie Berlin, viewers can peer at mirrors on the walls and reflect on empowerment, meditation and sumptuousness. Since the garments have also gone through a process of abstraction, it is also possible to see elements of these designs in our surroundings, including on the streets and in our homes, and consider deeper layers of their effect on the conscious and subconscious experience.