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Design for Life

July 27, 2016

Fashion and interiors help tell the story of who we are.

Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake said, “Design is not for philosophy. It’s for life.”

He had it right. Whether talking about the runway or a striking interior, the thoughtfully creative end product is an interpretation of what’s happening around us in life. It’s how we tell our story.

I recently had the opportunity to dedicate my graduate project to developing a retail environment for fashion leader Eileen Fisher. This mega-brand, headquartered in Irving, N.Y., embraces simplicity, sustainability, and great design through an ethos born of passionate individuals who work as they live and use good design throughout their spaces and products to inspire creativity, cultivate connection, and instill confidence. Part of my assignment was helping customers understand what they were buying in store. Yes, it’s obvious they were purchasing clothing, but where did the fabric come from? Were the products sustainable? To Eileen Fisher, sharing this information was—and is—a part of sharing their story.

Fashion intersects with interior design in many other ways. In fact, one could argue that both exist for a similar purpose. Style, whether it be in what you wear or the environments in which you live and work, is a way to say who and what you are. Walk into a well-designed corporate office, restaurant, or home and you can feel and see a larger, defining vision.

Fashion really is a marker of sorts, the same as a thoughtfully designed space. Both require creativity and critical thinking, with more than a little consideration for the practicality of experiential living. Both often also reflect what’s going on in the world—societally, economically, and more. We as designers look to fashion as a major source of information. While it’s true that we don’t change our interiors as often as we change our fashion styles, each comes from a similar—perhaps subliminal—quest to say who we are in our lives.

While it’s true that we don’t change our interiors as often as we change our fashion styles, each comes from a similar—perhaps
subliminal—quest to say who we are in our lives.

Luna Textiles, founded in San Francisco in 1994 to introduce new style to commercial interiors, is a great example. Recognizing interior designers’ intelligence and innate creativity, they showcase their fabrics as fashion objects: tennis shoes, raincoats, shoes, hatboxes, yoga bags, dresses. What do these have to do with furniture textiles?

The company explained, “Luna appreciates the savvy and intelligence of our audience, who is shown how the fabric will tailor, how it will upholster, how it visually translates when it is given shape, all with a nod to fashion, one of Luna’s greatest inspirations…It’s about design—not only the design of our textiles, but also the design of the Luna brand as a whole.” Fascinating. And true. In fact, Luna co-founder Michael Vanderbyl shared in a recent conversation with me that, quite simply, fashion is a part of their company’s DNA.

The interiors in which we live, work, play, and heal express our personal brand in very real ways. The strategy, creativity, vision, and guiding principles found in both the interior design and fashion industries make a difference in people’s lives—individually as a living expression, yet flowing into one another to inform meaningful outcomes.

Sandy Gordon, FASID, LEED AP, is the Chair of the Board of Directors for the American Society of Interior Designers and Principal of SGI Interiors in Madison, Wisconsin. Learn more about ASID at ASID.org.

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