Fashion guru Jasper Conran is already known for interior design, but with links to the Open House scheme and some heavy hints being dropped, it seems he may be moving into architecture. So do we have another fashion designer architect on our hands?
“Why shouldn’t Richard Rogers design a dress? I am quite anarchic in that sense,” says fashion guru Jasper Conran, suggesting that he may be lining himself up to follow in the footsteps of Wayne Hemingway from the world of fashion into building design. “Great architecture has always inspired my design,” he says. “I look at all design as coming from the same place and dealing with broadly the same issues.”
This week Conran joined forces with Open House to launch a year-long programme of debates with the next generation of architects and future design influencers. The event, which will highlight many of London’s inspiring buildings as well as reflect on the issues affecting the design landscape of the capital, is set to catapult one of the country’s most renowned fashion designers onto the architectural map.
Conran says that he has designed the interiors of numerous homes and for his new flagship store in Mayfair, but he has not ruled out making the leap from the fast paced clothing and interiors sector and into the world of architecture. “I’m enjoying that [the interior design] for the time being, but you never know – building design may be on the horizon!”
The notoriously media-shy Conran says he envies the kind of time that architects enjoy to develop a project. “Fashion moves so quickly. I’m designing four collections a year – two for men and two for women. And those are just my mainline collections. I do many more for my high street collections. Architects have so much more time to work on a project, to research and collaborate.”
He is aware, however, that fashion designers achieve a greater profile than architects, citing the vast amounts of money that the world of fashion throws at buying advertising space as one of the causes. “When was the last time an architecture firm bought advertising in Vogue or Marie Claire? When was the last time you saw an architecture firm splashed all over the billboards at Tottenham Court Road?” he says. “I hate to be that commercial about it, but look around you. I’m sure architects are investing in advertising but I would imagine it’s much more targeted. A fashion designer will put their name on anything just to get noticed. Well, most fashion designers, anyway …”
The fundamentals to designing a building are probably similar to those I return to – shape, line, proportion
Conran adds that he expects that designing for buildings and towns shares the same “disparate influences in technology, culture, immigration, and the economy” as designing for fashion.
And he points to his training at the Parson School of Art and Design in New York and how it focused on the fundamentals of shape, line and proportion as evidence of an overlap. “I return to these fundamentals whether I’m designing a dress, a crystal champagne flute, or even my garden. Of course you need a complete understanding of the limitations of the medium you’re working in.”
Conran accepts that in order to make the leap from sector to sector you would need a knowledge of the types of materials required to make the designs workable.
He says that before he started designing the Jasper Conran for Wedgwood collection he had to learn all about the specific properties of china and ceramics. “I expect designing a building or a town means learning a vast set of properties specific to such an endeavour. That said, the fundamentals are probably similar to those I return to whenever I start designing – shape, line, proportion.” And he accepts that there is a whole range of difference between fashion designers and architects. “As I said, in the end it’s all design. Fashion design can be very architectural and of course architecture can be very fashionable. There’s a great deal of overlap.
So what does Jasper Conran think about fashion designers such as Wayne Hemingway moving to design houses for people like Wimpey homes? “I think it’s great. Why shouldn’t Hemingway design houses? To me it’s about an individual following his own creative impulses.”
Who is Jasper Conran?
At 46, Jasper Conran, son of Sir Terence, is one of the UK’s most commercially successful designers, who attracts a celebrity clientele. His spring show audience included Jamie Oliver and his wife Jules, as well as the likes of Tara Palmer-Tomkinson.
He launched his self-titled womenswear label more than 26 years ago and has shops as far afield as Japan.
He has won various fashion awards including the British Fashion Council’s Designer of the Year title and the Laurence Olivier Award for Costume Designer of the Year for hit play The Rehearsal, a British Collections’ Award, and the 1991 British Fashion Awards.
Conran became a household name in the late 1990s when he became an in-house designer for Debenhams. His brand has now diversified into lingerie, sunglasses and menswear, ceramics and cutlery.
For more details on the Open House scheme, see www.londonopenhouse.org