Auction for a cause

An inspirational collaboration between architecture and fashion culminates in dresses for charity.
Fashion meets architecture in this garment, designed by BAJJA, and inspired by the Ballutta Building.

Four designer dresses, commissioned by the Planning Authority and the 2022 Malta Architectural and Spatial Planning Awards last year, were auctioned at a charity event on Wednesday.

The MASP project pushed boundaries in the design realm, and the resulting dresses were inspired by local landmark buildings, which are “reflective of good examples of architecture in their respective eras”.

Fashion for a Cause, held at Palazzo Parisio in aid of the Malta Autism Centre and Victim Support Malta, included the auction of the dresses designed by architect sisters Vincienne and Samaria Bezzina.

One of the challenges of the PA’s innovative project, which aimed to redefine the “seamless” relationship between fashion and architecture, was choosing the buildings to draw inspiration from.

This eventually came from the features, philosophy and design of four local landmark buildings: Balluta Buildings, Dar il-Ħanin Samaritan, Tarxien Temples and the Fgura Parish Church.

“All 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,” said Peter Gingell from the PA.

The garment inspired by Tarxien Temples, with an estimated value of €970, channelled this heritage site’s famously detailed carvings into the design, with a printed silk cotton shirt that featured them in a striking red colour, reflecting the blood of sacrifice and the use of ochre.

A bodice with the oculus motif signified the sacred areas of the temples, while the choice of fabric gave the impression of animal skin – a key aspect in prehistoric societies.

For the dress inspired by Balluta Buildings, with an estimated value of €1,300, the designers focused on the structure’s three prominent vertical arches, distinctive wrought-iron gates and 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, with an estimated value of €1,100.

The vibrant coloured dress incorporated 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.

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, which had an estimated value of €1,050.

The piece mimicked the pyramid-shaped roof of the church, with pure white satin fabric forming triangular shapes that uncovered a vibrant stained-glass print shirt layered underneath.

The auction was open to anyone interested in bidding for these unique, bespoke pieces.

Speaking about the concept behind the project, Gingell had said it was looking for “fresh and dynamic” ways to showcase Maltese architecture, while supporting the remarkable work of local architects.

“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. Expressing the parallel through fashion was an idea worth exploring,” Gingell had said.

From visualisation to conceptualisation, construction to craftsmanship, the design processes of architecture and fashion holds many similarities.

They both share a vocabulary that has influenced each 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 façades of new buildings.

It is not unusual to see people studying architecture eventually branching off into the world of fashion, Gingell pointed out.

For Periti Samaria and Vincienne Bezzina from Maltese fashion brand BAJJA, presenting a bespoke fashion collection at the MASP awards ceremony was “extremely special as it married two of our passions: architecture and fashion”.

Both follow a 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, they said.

“Both fashion and architecture express ideas of personal, social and cultural identity, reflecting the concerns of users and the ambitions of the age.

“Working closely with the PA and with an excellent local seamstress, Ina Zammit, we remained true to the buildings’ original spirit and continued the Maltese tradition of quality and excellence,” they said.

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