When Architecture Met Fashion in the Hands of Zaha Hadid

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Zaha Hadid x Georg Jensen© Georg Jensen

She was known as the Queen of the Curve for her architectural innovation, but Zaha Hadid’s vision extended to the body as well. We consider her extraordinary work in fashion, jewellery and footwear

By the time of her death earlier this year, Zaha Hadid had changed the face of architecture forever. The fluid, sweeping lines of her gravity-defying buildings redefined the principles of monumentalism and brought commissions from 45 cities from around the world. Her astounding vision saw her decorated as the first woman to receive the Pritzker Architecture Prize, and she was also awarded the Stirling Prize for two years running. It comes as no surprise, then, that she successfully carved herself a niche as a celebrity architect – or ‘starchitect’ – who was just as recognisable as the edifices she created.

At a young age, Hadid's mother taught her to draw to ‘keep her out of trouble’, while her brothers foresaw a career in space travel for their mathematically inclined sibling. The latter may not have come to pass, but her family’s insight was a powerful prediction of this polymath’s exhaustive practice, which was by no means limited to the art of building. Here, we recall some of the lesser-known and more fashion-focused elements of her legacy.


Hadid was not one to shy away from statement jewellery in her own sartorial choices, and her architectural designs often served as direct inspiration for the sculptural pieces she created. Her various collaborations with Atelier Swarovski are testament to her preoccupation with the Russian avant-garde, creating organic lines that mould to the body while maintaining a sense of perpetual movement. In 2008 she created the show-stopping Celeste couture necklace, its sweeping shape is evocative of a single brushstroke, dancing along the collarbone and frozen in silver. Two years later she created the Crista collection, featuring twisted, sinuous accessories adorned with galactic veins of crystals in crimson, black and gold. The palette was apparently inspired by birds of paradise. 

This year has also seen the release of two posthumous collections, the first of which was conceived with Danish designer George Jensen. The eight-piece Lamaelle collection continues equilibrium between the organic and futuristic, using a ‘striped’ relief that twists naturally along the lines of the body to encourage interplay between light and shadow. Hadid was also invited by Bulgari to reinterpret their B.zero1 ring, which was first created to mark the new millennium. The original piece was inspired by the ancient grandeur of the Colosseum, but Hadid’s contemporary take balances traditional engraving with intricate, overlapping bands spun delicately over the finger.


With her commitment to innovation at the fore, Hadid collaborated on several footwear designs for the likes of Adidas, Lacoste and Melissa – the latter famed for its use of moulded plastic to re-envisage footwear. Always one to experiment with new materials, her special edition was the result of rigorous prototyping that allowed for an ergonomically sound design. The outcome featured a webbed network of curves not unlike the body’s network of muscles, but manifested in gorgeous metallic shades.

In an even greater feat of physics, Hadid produced the limited edition NOVA shoe with Rem Koolhaas for United Nude. This formidable model uses an intricate cantilever system to produce an eye-watering 6.25-inch unsupported heel, and its futuristic chrome-plated design incorporates injection moulding and vacuum casting to create a sci-fi shell reminiscent of geological formations.


As an architect with an unmistakable signature aesthetic it comes as no surprise that many fashion houses have asked Hadid to reinterpret their classic motifs. Her edition of Fendi’s Peekaboo handbag includes multiple layers of carefully crafted black leather, evoking either the pages of a book or the sleeves of a portfolio, at once encapsulating the creativity and precision of her practice.

A more radical reinvention of the Louis Vuitton bucket bag was produced in moulded plastic, featuring both cut-outs and extrusions of the renowned monogram, as if it has been suspended in motion. The distorted proportions feature interchangeable parts, designed to be playful yet suitably organised.

In an even more ambitious interrelation between their respective disciplines, Hadid and Karl Lagerfeld conceived a travelling exhibition space to mark the 50th anniversary of the quilt-stitched 2.55 Chanel handbag. To honour the most distinctive of accessories, this mobile art container housed a show celebrating the brand’s distinct creativity. The building’s continuous arch-shaped elements offer an effortless spatial rhythm that is flooded with natural light, while reflective materials are employed to allow the exterior skin to be illuminated with a variety of colours. To date it has been erected in Hong Kong, Tokyo, New York and Paris.

Zaha Hadid: Early Paintings and Drawings runs until February 8, 2017 at Serpentine Sackler Gallery, London.