Text : Nor Azua Ruslan
[ Dressing Architecture : Colour, Style & Fashion ]
In Relation With Architects and Clothing
Original works submitted to the Manchester School of Architecture for the Bachelor of Architecture dated April 2009. Received a commendation in Summer 2010.
7.0] From KUL-MAN
I would like to introduce my friend, Nursuliana. We met in TRYH when I did my practical training there in 2003. When we were both graduated, we made the same decision to come back to TRHY and started our career there. As I had explained earlier, TRHY has no specific dress code or special attire which people might labelled as TRHY fashion. Later in 2007, she decided to move to Manchester and she has been offered a job as Junior Architect in Broadway Malyan, one of the architecture companies. I am interested to examine the way she dressed up to work in TRHY, Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to Broadway Malyan, Manchester (MAN).
Knowing her as a young Malay lady, she chose Baju Kurung during her time in TRHY. She always stands up amongst all staff and colleagues as she preferred this unique traditional clothes rather than modern clothing. Yes, she is very unique in her own way and yet she creates her own identity. However, when I asked on her opinion about herself and the way she dressed up to the office, she simply said that she does not have any specific architect’s attire to be exact.
FIG.7.1: Suliana; far from left (TRHY 2004)
I am just being simple and I want to be fast. This is because I had so many other things to do apart from my concern on what to wear to the office. I just have no time to be fashionable. Therefore, I found that Baju Kurung or Kebaya just save me from the hassle to pick clothes to the office. However, if I was assigned to attend a meeting, then only I decided to wear something more presentable.
When she said presentable, it is in a terms that she is actually carry herself as a TRHY representative, therefore she decided to ‘dress to impress’. Of course, when you work with a big labelled architect, you will definitely carry yourself as big-name architect’s staff, which is the most interesting part in your career. I totally do not agree with her because her own unique identity is presentable enough, and there is nothing more you could expect. When she said she has no time to be fashionable, that is not acceptable. This is because she has a sense of colour picking and matching. Suliana loves to match her scarf with her top / dress. I found this is intriguing apart from her being simple and realizes that she is actually has a sense for fashion. She actually did, and she even had this so called Casual Clothing Friday because on Friday, she will pull on her jeans and shirt. She got her own sense of style, didn’t she?
During our interview, she did not agree if architects should have specific dress code or attire. This is because she prefers colours and style varieties which shall create a cheerful working environment. Therefore to her, different clothes and different fashion is acceptable in architect’s profession and architects should have a sense for fashion. But nevertheless, architect should not have a strict guideline on it. It does not matter if architects do not have a deep knowledge in fashion, but having a basic knowledge of colour matching and sense are expected.
She thought the same about herself when public seems to expect architect to dress creatively. Therefore she does not feel that she is fashionable enough. However, she finally agreed that her own unique identity is what portrays herself of being creative by wearing Malay traditional clothes, while other Malay architects chose modern clothing. Yes, Suliana is proud of her culture. That is why she planned to develop her deep interests in Malay traditional house in vernacular architecture in the future. The art of how architect dress is not inevitable in this century.
What does exist, however, is the association in people’s minds of fashion with transience and architecture with permanence. But in the last two decades evaluations in these categories have started to change.6
FIG.7.2: Suliana in Broadway Malyan office, Machester 2007
Suliana has proved that her clothes do not really give an impact towards her architecture career. When she moved to England, she never tried any attempt to dress up to impress anymore. She carried herself as she always been. And she did not restrict herself to wear her synonym Malay traditional clothes only; she also explored some other style, as shown in FIG.6.2. The important keys here are architects need to be confident and comfortable at the same time, no matter how they dress up. Clothing is maybe a symbol of modern man, but clothing cannot be simply a symbol of modern architecture because they do not march the same way. Same goes with fashion and architecture.
Garments are wrapped around the body in successive layers of underwear, outer clothing and overcoats that define the outer core of the body, while tiers of sleeping bags, tents and shelters symbolically expand into house and skyscrapers.5
Fashion and dressing architecture have no relation at all. Not as what we seen in many debates about fashion in architecture. We can’t expect architects to be the model themselves. This is mainly because architects have more important role to shape their building rather than themselves. Eventough the architect was not in Adolf Loos’s opinion, an artist, but a kind of tailor;18 architect cannot tailor himself as his own clothing experiment because architect profession purely meant to be dealt with buildings. Architects can borrow the pleating technique, stapling, cutting and draping from traditional tailoring to design a building, but if architect choose to tailor a dress, he is not providing architectural services.
 Interview between author and Nursuiana (Feb 2009)
6 Ruth H.(2006) Architecture and Fashion. In Ruth, H. Absolutely fabulous! : Architecture and Fashion. Prestel: London
5 Bradley Q. (2003) Introduction. In Badley Q. The fashion of architecture Berg: Oxford. p.3
18 Jules L. (1983) Adolf Loos and The English Dandy. In Architectural Review, Vol CL XIX No.1038. p.