Architectural Fashion: Designer Q&A with f+bp

21Feb07


I had the chance to interview Los Angeles-based architect/fashion designer Alice Fung, of f+bp (or should I say I tracked her down after falling in love with her architecturally inspired felted scarves). I was curious how she made the foray into fashion from architecture and how she plays with the seeming boundary between the two.

FG: Alice, what inspired you to launch your Wearables line of scarves?
AF: A few years ago, I started teaching a studio at Art Center based on the Bauhaus approach to materials. Having a background in art as well, I found myself inspired to make things again.

When our house was published in dwell [September, 2004], we received a lot of inquiries and requests about a [lawn] chaise that we designed. That motivated us to consider products, to have our work reach a larger audience and cross promote our architecture.

FG: What inspired your interest in fashion?
AF: It wasn’t an interest in fashion per se….though I do Iove beautifully tailored clothes. I bought a man’s kimono from an antique store once, made from an entire piece of rectilinear fabric. It’s simplicity and origamic construction made me think about how similarly furniture is made and how clothing is part of the continuum of our environment, at the most intimate, tactile level.

FG: Was this an organic venture that emerged from your work in architecture?
AF: It is totally organic in that I don’t know where it will take us. It is grounded in the values that inspires our architecture and evolves from the from material at hand. My die-cutter/felt supplier saves pieces of cast-off for me from time to time. Those get transformed into unexpected new pieces. In that sense, my die-cutter/felt supplier is my muse!

FG: Why did you choose felt as your primary material?
AF: It all started with a large die-cut industrial felt panel that I made
to layer over a cellular polycarbonate wall at my house.
The positive cut outs were designed to be made into another curtain but
the sewing proved to be too much. So I started playing, with smaller
constructs.

FG: Where do import your felt from? Is it organic or fairly traded? If yes, how do you know for certain?
AF: The industrial felt is from the east coast. 90% reprocessed and 10% new wool. The premium wool felt is from Spain. The same vendor supplies the Waldorf Schools.

FG: Are your scarves made by hand? Is it a craft?
AF: It’s hybrid: sourced out to be die-cut, machine sewn in house. At this point I am still directly connected to their making.

FG: Where are they manufactured?
AF: Locally. I do have an employee (trained designers, aspiring architects) helping from time to time.

FG: Any other sustainable benefits or practices involved with your Wearables line?
AF: My pieces are harvested from and inspired by industrial cast-offs. All are conceived and produced in such a way that all material is utilized and nothing is wasted. I adhere to a method of working in which the design evolves from the material at hand. There is a careful balance between the positive and negative pieces and what gets made from them.

FG: Do you sell retail only? Wholesale? What kind of people seem particularly attracted to your line?
AF: Both. Designers, architects. What is it about them?

FG: I’m fascinated by designers who create both spaces and products. How much of your time is devoted to the fashion side of your business and how much to architecture?
AF: I’d say it’s about 70% architecture, 20% product, 10% teaching.

FG: What lessons have your learned from dabbling in the world of crossover design?
AF: I find it invigorating and necessary (even just as an occasional exercise) to violate boundaries: between disciplines, between concept and making, between craft and technology. The same ideas that goes into a light fixture, a piece of graphic, a piece of clothing can just as well apply to a building, its spaces and multiple layers of experiences.

FG: What can we expect from your upcoming Livables line?
AF: Some amazing products made from ukulele piks (the demand for trivits and the demand for piks don’t quite balance out!) We will develop the lawn chair further using other types of technology.

FG: Do you use also felt as a finish material in your architectural practice? If yes, how?
AF: We are using felt as an acoustic treatment in a conference room. We have used it as a screen panel. There are lots of other applications that I would like to try out.

FG: Big goals for the fashion side of business this year? The architectural side?
AF: Integrating the two would be nice: to translate the structural and spatial concepts of the wearables and apply them to environments. On
the product side, I would like to introduce our line to the east coast and let someone else do the marketing.

FG: From where do you take your design inspiration?
AF: The material and its geometry…

FG: Whats your favorite fashion accessory in your closet?
AF: A delicate necklace by Laura Baxter. A hand-felted merino wool scarf by YakSalad that looks like a lengthwise slice of a giant octopus tenacle.

FG: What do you love about designing for fashion?
AF: (Almost) instant gratification. And I get to wear it!

FG: Describe how it feels to wear a one of your pieces?
AF: Hmm…I’d say they are dynamic and dimensional, reflective of every change in your mood or weather.

FG: Have you seen the Skin and Bones exhibit at the MOCA? What was your personal impression?
AF: I went to the member’s opening and look forward to returning for a deeper look. It’s very ambitious and visually captivating. Dominated by fashion simply because architecture is presented mostly as scaled down facsimilies and images. I’m fascinated by the cultural and conceptual look at fashion and architecture as they relate to shelter and domesticity, a little less the structural/graphic comparisons which seem strained at times. The catalog, which I just started reading, leveled the scale issue and offers greater depth and more salient connections.

Her pieces are available online through the f+bp store. Thanks so much Alice for talking with us!

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One Response to “Architectural Fashion: Designer Q&A with f+bp”

  1. 1 Anonymous

    Great stuff
    f+b have inspired me in many ways…

    miki


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