Boundaries are intended to be pushed in the realm of design. Over recent months the Planning Authority (PA) embarked on a creative and innovative project that has redefined the seamless relationship between fashion and architecture. Below, Peter Gingell from the PA and two Periti/designers from Maltese fashion brand Bajja share the process behind this intriguing project.
“The project started off with the question – what if? As organisers of the Malta Architecture and Spatial Planning (MASP) Awards we are constantly exploring and on the look-out for fresh and dynamic ways to showcase Maltese architecture, while supporting the remarkable work of local architects,” explains Gingell.
“Involving fashion provided us with the means to be innovative and creative in raising awareness about some local buildings that have distinct forms, styles and functionality. We sensed that the parallel between the fashion and architecture industries cannot be ignored.”
As architecture moved towards more modern aesthetics, the connection with fashion became more evident. Both architecture and fashion express the unique taste and identity of the individual and the society. From visualisation to conceptualisation, construction to craftsmanship, the design processes of each hold many similarities. Not only, they both share a vocabulary which has influenced the other.
With the evolution of new building materials, fashion-related practices normally used in the manufacture of clothing – like wrapping, pleating and folding – are now seen on the façade of new buildings. Coinciding with this we see terminology more commonly used in architecture, such as massing and volumetrics, being used on today’s catwalks.
Although it is not unusual to see people studying architecture branching off into the world of fashion, Peter was elated when he encountered local fashion designer brand Bajja.
“This company ticked all the boxes for us – not only are its designers warranted architects, the two Bezzina siblings are hardworking, passionate, meticulous and energetic.
“One of the challenges was to decide which buildings to choose for Bajja to draw their inspiration. The initial list was lengthy, but after long-drawn debates with Samaria and Vincienne we managed to zone in and pick the four buildings that would be used for this project. All four buildings were designed and built with expert artistry, attention to detail and using quality materials, helping them stand the test of time and symbolising Maltese heritage for generations,” Gingell pointed out.
The project took inspiration from the features, philosophy and design of four local landmark buildings, each offering good examples of architecture in their respective eras: Balluta Buildings, Dar il-Ħanin Samaritan, Tarxien Temples and the Fgura Parish Church.
“Presenting a bespoke fashion collection at the Awards was extremely special for us, as it married two of our passions, architecture and fashion,” explained fashion designer Samaria Bezzina.
“Both follow a very similar process, from visiting the site and developing the concept, to sketching, creating the plans for the building or the paper patterns for the garment. Both fashion and architecture express ideas of personal, social and cultural identity, reflecting the concerns of users and the ambitions of the age.”
Vincienne Bezzina added: “As designers, we keep quality and craftsmanship as our top priority, working closely with the PA and with an excellent local seamstress, Ina Zammit, we remained true to the buildings’ original spirit and continue the Maltese tradition of quality and excellence.”
For the garment inspired by Balluta Buildings, the designers focused on the structure’s three prominent vertical arches, its distinctive wrought iron gate and its green shutters. They created a silk print design and incorporated a red corset on the dress that mirrors the gate’s design, to fit the building’s Art Nouveau style by architect Giuseppe Psaila.
Paying homage to the work of Maltese architect Richard England, the designers focused on the meditation garden at Dar il-Ħanin Samaritan – the muse for yet another garment in the collection. The vibrant-coloured dress incorporates the garden’s journey through life from birth and beyond death, using its play of light and shadow, with fluidity as a nod to the space’s water-related architectural elements.
Then, the garment inspired by Tarxien Temples channels this heritage site’s famously detailed carvings into the design, with a printed silk cotton shirt that features them in a striking red colour reflecting the blood of sacrifice and the use of ochre. A bodice with the oculus motif signifies the sacred areas of the temples, while the choice of fabric gives the impression of animal skin – a key aspect in prehistoric societies.
Finally, the triangular lines and vivid stained-glass windows of Our Lady of Mount Carmel parish church in Fgura inspired the last garment of the project’s collection. The beautiful piece mimics the pyramid-shaped roof of the church, with pure white satin fabric forming triangular shapes that uncover a vibrant stained glass print shirt layered underneath.
“We hope to exhibit these garments soon – designed and made by Maltese artists, much like the buildings that inspired them and their architects – as well as to create a coffee table publication of the project sharing the process behind it,” concludes Gingell.
“There are so many unique and creative elements of Malta that marry well with the country’s architecture. We are looking forward to exploring more of these at the next MASP Awards!”