Bauhaus is back. You needn’t look any further than the fall 2014 runways to see that the German-born artistic movement is alive and willkommen. Among other examples, there were Joost Schmidt-inspired prints at Prada, vibrant, modular motifs at Thomas Tait, geometric panelling at Bottega Veneta and rounded pocket bands at Givenchy.
No one, however, has captured the essence of Bauhaus more fully this season than Jason Wu, the Vancouver-raised, New York–based designer best known for his namesake fashion line and as the man behind Michelle Obama’s inauguration gowns. Wu made his debut as creative director for women’s wear at Hugo Boss with a fall collection inspired by the architecture of the company’s headquarters in Metzingen, Germany.
“The campus is very Bauhaus, very beautiful,” says the 31-yearold, who set his February show in a Manhattan skyscraper filled with lush plants and tree trunks to reflect the contrast between the company’s grid-like glass structures and the green landscape that surrounds them. Likewise, Wu drew on the brand’s highly industrialized heritage for sharply tailored suits and dresses, all digitally cut and constructed to a technical T. “The appeal of the Bauhaus is its purity, its rigour and its precision – they are all elements that easily translate to Boss fashion and are indeed the DNA of the house.”
Founded by German architect Walter Gropius in 1919, Bauhaus was conceived as a “school of building” devoted to unifying the arts and breaking down the barrier between creativity and craftsmanship. In his Bauhaus Manifesto and Program, Gropius declared his goal to be the creation of “a new guild of craftsmen without class distinctions,” concluding that “we all must return to the crafts!”
In the early 1930s, the Nazi party clamped down on the school, calling it “a centre of Communist intellectualism” and forcing Bauhaus scholars into exile as far afield as the United States, Latin America, Israel and Japan, where their approach, as it happened, evolved into a global movement that grew to encompass other disciplines, such as furniture design. Among the best-known, still produced examples in this category are Marcel Breuer’s tubular-framed coffee tables, Mart Stam’s ubiquitous Cantilever chair and the timeless nesting tables of Josef Albers. These lighter, more streamlined items, so unlike the heavy, ornate furniture that preceded them, not only defined a new aesthetic, but also reflected the 20th century’s new social and physical mobility, says Dr. Micha Gross, director of the Bauhaus Center in Tel Aviv.
“If objects are not heavy, you may change their location easily and even change your address,” he adds, noting that innovations like those of the Bauhaus thinkers enabled “people to move geographically as well as within social classes.”
Today, this type of design flexibility may be taken for granted, but the Bauhaus’s devotion to craft isn’t. Indeed, it seems to have acquired a new relevance in the field of domestic design after the long postwar infatuation with mass production. This season alone, Bauhaus style can be seen in everything from upholstery (the British textile studio Wallace Sewell’s series of bright wool fabrics were directly inspired by the work of Bauhaus artist Anni Albers) to storage solutions (Masaaki Kanai, president of the Japanese housewares retailer Muji, often cites Bauhaus as a major influence). What makes Wu’s adoption of the aesthetic feel so fresh is his attempt to turn “art into industry,” as its founders put it, through a medium rarely connected to Bauhaus.
“I wanted to create clothing that expressed both aesthetic and ideological elements of the Bauhaus,” he says, noting “the geometry of the patterns and the strict, precise silhouettes” as well as “an interesting use of materials and of cut to create decoration through the structure of the garments, through the craft.”
“I’m creating ready-to-wear clothes,” Wu continues, “that are manufactured to be sold all over the world, but that’s no reason they can’t be exciting and beautiful, which is really the entire argument of the Bauhaus. I feel it’s very relevant to modern fashion – there’s a reality to the clothes.”
This story originally appeared in the September 2014 issue of Globe Style Advisor. To download the magazine's free iPad app, visit tgam.ca/styleadvisor.