Rosie Assoulin, Phillip Lim, and more reveal which architects and iconic structures influence their designs

Frank Gehry, Zaha Hadid, and Luis Barragán are not names you would typically associate with fashion runways, but new collections from brands like Phillip Lim and Milly are drawing inspiration from these iconic architects. We interviewed ten fashion designers from labels including Rosie Assoulin, Chloe, and Maison Kitsuné to discover the high-design works that serve as reference points for this season’s garments.

Photo: Delpozo/UFA Paramount Pictures


Creative director Josep Font conceived a beautiful geometric setfor the Fall/Winter 2016 runway show. His inspiration for both the clothing and the set? The Art Deco and Expressionist architecture in the 1927 film Metropolis. “In some of the looks,” he says, “there is a very literal inspiration—the color palette, the metallic feel—and in other cases, more abstract influence such as the volume on sleeves and tops.”

Photo: Rosie Assoulin/S. Lombardi Vallauri/Getty Images

Rosie Assoulin

The designer, who is known for her feminine structured garments, was influenced by an unlikely place for her Fall/Winter 2015 collection: a cemetery. “We were inspired by the Brion Cemetery by Italian architect Carlo Scarpa near Treviso, Italy,” Assoulin says. “The incredible angles and lines, triangles, squares, and rectangles, all blending together somehow harmoniously. I find something new every time I look at it.”

Photo: Yasutoshi Ezumi/Universal Images Group/Getty Images

Yasutoshi Ezumi

The Tokyo-based designer has been referencing architectural heavyweights such as the Eames, Frank Gehry, and Gordon Matta-Clark since launching his brand in 2010. For the Spring/Summer 2016 collection, a recording of Gehry speaking about his own inspirations was even used as the runway show’s soundtrack. The idea came about after doing some research. “I watched the documentary Sketch of Frank Gehry,” Ezumi says. “He was really freely making structures of paper architecture models; it was just like fashion draping, so I did the same design for the collection.”

Photo: Chloé/AGF/Getty Images


The dichotomy of hard and soft found at Chloé evolved from creative director Clare Waight Keller’s fascination with Arabesque architecture, an aesthetic of interweaving seemingly infinite patterns that is most common in the Middle East. The influence can be seen in lacework and repeating motifs. “In my Summer 2016 collection, I created a series of pieces made up of elements of exaggerated details from Arabesque architecture,” she says, “working the proportions on a larger scale and piecing them together to create edges and straps and to frame dresses and tops.”

Photo: Milly/Epsilon/Getty Images


Women’s wear designer Michelle Smith is enraptured with architect Zaha Hadid. “There is something mesmerizing about her work. It’s forward-thinking but organic, with a certain sexiness. There is a clean and sculptural fluidity to Hadid’s work that mirrors the way I design,” says Smith. Heavy cotton fabric was used in this look from the Milly Spring/Summer 2016 collection to give the sculptural oversize sleeves support while maintaining a softness, mimicking the perfect balance achieved in so much of Hadid’s work.

Photo: William Okpo/Ullstein Bild/Getty Images

William Okpo

A recent trip to Portugal influenced Lizzy and Darlene Okpo, the sisters behind William Okpo, who were struck by the architecture, stone walls, and narrow stone-paved streets. The Church of São Francisco, Chapel of Souls, and Sá da Bandeira, which are located in the heart of Porto, were the main references for inspiration. “The entire Church São Francisco is designed in gold and has an abundance of detailing in every biblical sculpture,” says Lizzy. “The church felt infinite, as though it required a great deal of time to actually see all that was done with the human eye.” The brand’s Fall/Winter 2016 collection features an embroidered black-and-white pattern over organza silk that echoes motifs from tiled church floors.

Photo: Stella Jean/S. Lombardi Vallauri/Getty

Stella Jean

The Italian-Haitian designer regularly draws on her roots, citing Haiti’s gingerbread houses, vibrant colors, and intricate wood façades as sources of architectural inspiration. But it isn’t just about their aesthetics: “I’m particularly inspired by these amazing structures, which are not only architecturally significant but bear in mind the Caribbean climate and its living conditions,” she says.

Photo: Phillip Lim/John Mitchell/Alamy

Phillip Lim

Designer Phillip Lim is known for blending asymmetrical silhouettes and bold colors into eclectic but elegant apparel. His inspiration comes from another masterful use of color: the work of Mexican architect Luis Barragán. “I am always drawn to images of his amazingly beautiful home in the suburbs of Mexico City,” Lim says. “The house encompasses a perfect mix of precision, light, color, and shadow. This balance evokes a naive modernism that is timeless. I can feel the soul, the hands. Nothing is perfect, but it is precise.”

Photo: Maison Kitsuné/Hotel Okura

Maison Kitsuné

This month Maison Kitsuné opened its third Japanese outpost, designed in the style of Hotel Okura, a luxury hotel in the heart of Tokyo whose lobby has made memorable cameos in films like You Only Live Twice and Cary Grant’s Walk Don’t Run. To celebrate the opening, Maison Kitsuné is introducing a capsule collection that pays homage to the brand’s Japanese roots and the hotel with 1960s-style design elements and modernist geometric motifs.