Think Bauhaus fashion. Clean lines, cubic white houses, red, blue, and yellow come to one’s mind. The visual vocabulary of Bauhaus is minimal yet bold. You might trace the footprints of these Bauhaus-ish vibes on the page you’re reading at this moment. There’s a reason for that – many movements happened in art history but none of them had such an influence on culture, fashion to be exact as Bauhaus.
I believe it’s the spirit and the sense of newness that is still floating over our heads. Imagine being Walter Gropius in 1919, building this never seen type of school in Weimar, inventing new working methods with the most inspiring and talented artists of that time. The thrill of something fresh, the brave new world as Abstract Stylist likes to call it, that feeling had to be nothing less than amazing. Or maybe it’s because it has never really finished. The school was closed in 1932, although the teachers spread all over the world continuing to share their vision and experience. For any reason, it was never forgotten and to this day fashion just can’t let go the brilliance and simplicity of Bauhaus design. Let’s dig in.
The movement started as an opposition to the decorative Arts and Crafts movement that preceded it. As a result of resistance against lavish human touch, the industrial minimal design was born. Liberation from ornament opened a new window for abstract design, which felt modern in those days and is still relevant today. Many renowned fashion designers have taken this path, strongly focusing on minimal silhouettes and playful shapes. After all, minimal design is being associated with quality, purity, and intellect, which brands minimal fashion house as luxurious. But why is that so?
Bauhaus invented a recipe for a good design
There’s something contemporary and progressive about minimalism. As Austrian Architect, Adolf Loose wrote: “Freedom from ornament is a sign of spiritual strength”. In the famous essay Ornament and Crime, he argues that ornamentation can cause the object to soon go out of style. And isn’t that true, just take a look at German designer Jil Sander. Her namesake label pieces are practically timeless. She’s particularly inspired by artistic movement’s philosophy of seriality and modesty, earning a nickname “Queen of less” for popularizing the aesthetics of purity in design. As a textile engineering graduate, she pays extreme attention to fabrics, high-tech textiles, which only proves Bauhaus invented a recipe that good design equals material plus form.
“As a textile engineering graduate, she pays extreme attention to fabrics, high-tech textiles, which only proves Bauhaus invented a recipe that good design equals material plus form. ”
Talking about textiles, and Bauhaus fashion, one of the most successful workshops at the Bauhaus school was weaving. It was attended mostly by women and a few of them became quite famous artists at that time – Gunta Stölzl and Anni Albers. The latter was often overshadowed by her husband painter Josef Albers (you may know the guy, iconic paintings of squares in a monochrome palette, yes that’s the one). Experimenting with traditional and industrialized weaving techniques, they created artworks that are still alive and kicking the runway almost ninety years later. Take a glimpse of Alexander McQueen Spring/Summer 2014 collection – Sarah Burton designed bright color blocking dresses of futuristic tribes referring to various textile artworks. Another more unpretentious use of archive textiles can be seen in Hugo Boss Fall/Winter 2015 collection, which embodies artsy attire for office ladies. Or full of abstract geometric prints Spring/Summer 2017 collection of Proenza Schouler.
The visual language of Bauhaus
The visual language of Bauhaus is vivid and bold, thus easily applied to make a statement of sharp, strong, upbeat mood. Even for the fashion labels that are completely opposite of minimal. Like Mary Katrantzou in her latest Autumn/Winter 2018 collection combined modernist Bauhaus and Victorian Arts and Crafts graphics in one. But usually, it is designers themselves whose personal style resembles that of the Bauhaus movement. The best example from the ocean of runway collections is Céline Spring/Summer 2014. Phoebe Philo designed pieces with a whole spectrum of geometric abstraction bursting with vibrant colors. From strokes like make-up to heels made of sharp forms.
It all goes back to the famous Yves Saint Laurent Mondrian Collection show in 1965, which was dedicated to the Bauhaus Dutch precursor movement De Stijl. “Mondrian is purity and one can go no further in purity in the painting”, he said. The 60s’ dresses served as a white canvas on which monsieur Laurent transformed Mondrian paintings or details of them. Although it was straightforward art and fashion mixing, it did shake the industry at that time.
Forget all this talk about visual design for a minute. Do you know that Bauhaus students used to throw wild costume parties? Hell yes, the festivals were seen as part of their educational routine and lasted for days, involving school and the local community. According to the particular theme, students crafted costumes, taking this task very seriously, trying to out-do one another. Some themes you can steal for your next party: The Beard, Nose, and Heart Festival, or The White Festival, where everyone had to wear dotted, chequered and striped costumes or The Metallic Festival. The element of the artistic performance was crucial, influenced by theatre workshop pro Oskar Schlemmer who developed Triadisches Ballett – modern dance of choreographed geometry with dancers transformed by fantastical costumes. It was really a start of performance art as such. How does that concern fashion? Two words: pop culture. Sculptural and futuristic costumes were adapted in pop culture, seen in performers’ outfits or stage settings. Starting from the famous David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust jumpsuit designed by Kansai Yamamoto, to Lady Gaga’s wire dress.
You see, the thing about Bauhaus fashion is that in a sense it’s always here – hidden in your geometrical shaped evening clutch, color block sportswear, or even Prada fashion show set. The similarity in design does not necessarily mean it was inspired by the movement, but the roots lie without a doubt back in Dessau.