Yale professor designs for New York Fashion Week

A joint collaboration between a Yale professor and the visionary behind Lady Gaga’s fashions is drawing attention as a feature in New York City’s famed Fashion Week.

Students from the Yale School of Architecture worked with the architecture professor Mark Gage to design and fabricate a concept retail showroom in collaboration with Nicola Formichetti, the fashion director for Lady Gaga and the creative director of French couture label Thierry Mugler. The installation is open to the public from Sept. 8-21 in Tribeca as part of the city’s 2012 spring/summer Fashion Week.

The exhibition was arranged through a competition that pairs fashion designers with architects to build temporary installations that attempt to synthesize aspects from both fashion and architecture.

Gage said that the collaboration with Formichetti was close, with frequent exchange of ideas in all stages of design, modeling and assembly, to ensure a successful exhibition.

BOFFO, a non-profit organization that coordinates innovative installations and events, coordinated the collaboration as its first feature in a two-month long fashion concept exhibition series called BOFFO Building Fashion.

As a collaboration between Formichetti and Gage/Clemenceau Architects, with Gage acting as the project’s principal architect, the installation sought not only to showcase Formichetti’s fashion designs, but also to enhance them through the creation of an environment that combines ideas from architecture with those from fashion.

Gage said he sought a progressive and innovative style that would create a new type of immersive environment through highly reflective surfaces. Fusing ideas from fashion and architecture, the installation experiments with technologies and designs that combine angularity in architectural practice with fluidity in the forms of high fashion.

“Typically, fashion environments are defined by a rather restrained minimalism that focuses the attention only on the clothing — for the obvious reasons of only selling clothes,” a press release from the Gage/Clemenceau office said.

The installation was assembled all on site and took advantage of highly modern materials, technologies and software. It comprises around 600 composite mirror facets, which are hoisted to hang from the ceilings, walls and floors, Gage said.

“It would have been impossible with standard or plexiglass mirrors,” Gage said. “So we had to get lightweight, robotically cut, composite mirrors from Austria, costing around $40,000.”

The facets are then fastened together with a system of 1,000 customized aluminum clips cut at precise angles, he added.

Finally, large mirrored sheets cover the floor. All these components produce an endlessly reflective environment that offers unusual perspectives of the clothing, which include new works by Formichetti alongside several original ensembles that he has previously designed for Lady Gaga.

With thousands of visitors each day, Gage said he is pleased with the strong turnout and positive reviews.

Despite the difficulties posed by a tight schedule, he said, “it was great to see people come and enjoy our work,” he said. He also cited a story about a 13-year-old girl who had flown to New York all the way from Arizona just to see the installation.

Gage is a founding partner of Gage/Clemenceau Architects in New York City and works on a wide range of architectural projects, in addition to writing about architecture and design. He teaches two courses at the Yale School of Architecture, including “Disheveled Geometries.”

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