23 February 2023

Ahead of the launch of the END. x adidas ‘Bauhaus’ capsule, END. dives into the world of the infamous design school to shine a light on its influence on the modern day.

Celebrating its 100th anniversary four years ago in 2019, the Bauhaus movement’s influence has remained exceedingly far-reaching, with admiration, inspiration and attention continually flowing between the designers, cultural tastemakers and artists of the modern day and the historic German art school.

While only operating between 1919 and 1933, the Staatliches Bauhaus’ mark on design and culture is indelible, and when we take a closer look at contemporary fashion, it’s clear that the iconoclasts of the early 21st Century are, to some degree, indebted to their forebears. Founded by Walter Grobius, Bauhaus' philosophy centred around a Modernist approach to art, design and architecture. Creating artistic works under the notion that form follows function, the Bauhaus movement aimed to bring art and design back into contact with our everyday lives. Combining bold typography, block colours and architectural forms, Bauhaus’ influence has continued beyond the early 20th century, with iconic pieces from Oskar Schlemmer, Lyonel Feininger, Paul Klee, amongst others, heralded as some of the century’s most important and influential works.

Tracing the line between Bauhaus and modern fashion design ahead of the launch of END.’s latest collaboration with adidas, “Bauhaus”, we’re delving into the present influence the movement has had and the lasting impact that comes with a transformative and disruptive vision.

Drawing upon the furniture of the Bauhaus movement, designers such as Virgil Abloh and Samuel Ross have continued to look to the German school to embellish their own design language, creating an amalgam that at once offers a look to the future of design, but simultaneously pays homage to its past. The Off-White founder’s collaboration with IKEA drew inspiration from the aesthetic values championed by designers Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Le Corbusier, while his work with Swiss design house Vitra reimagined two iconic Prouvé pieces – the Petite Potence and the Antony Chair – casting each design in a new light through his trademark use of colour and material, while borrowing aesthetics in form from the Bauhaus philosophy. Transforming the recognisable forms of these classic Bauhaus designs, Abloh’s keen eye for detail and training as an architect saw him introduce an industrial twist to his furniture design. Through this subtle modernisation, Off-White’s take on Bauhaus clearly holds these pieces in reverence but looks at how to bring them further into the modern realm, transforming them without entirely foregoing their original charm and modernist sensibility.

Similarly, Samuel Ross looked to Bauhaus for inspiration in his own work with A-COLD-WALL*, blending the functionality and clean-cut shapes, forms, and colours with a smattering of Brutalism. Ross’ “Rupture” collection offers an insight into his method of design and thinking – an infusion of Bauhaus’ sculptural approach to furniture, with bold oranges and pure white colour-blocking, while rough cast cement nods to Brutalism’s imposing use of hard materials and cold sensibility. On paper, this juxtaposition of style seems at odds, but when examined further, these two inspirations deliver strikingly inventive visual storytelling. Ross’ interest in Bauhaus continues further in his clothing design work, with asymmetrical garments combining angular shapes and sudden, bright colours breaking through darker tones. This approach sees the British designer utilise this influence for an altogether different effect, cultivating a darker aesthetic code that looks to the future with technical fabrics and celebrates spectacle. Described by Ross as “armour for the now”, his clothing may take on the aesthetic of protection, but through his utilisation of tropes from Bauhaus, it is imbued with a functionality that pays homage to Bauhaus’ modus operandi.

Another designer who has found himself enamoured with Bauhaus’ visual legacy is Rick Owens. For his SS20 womenswear presentation “TECUATL”, the Californian avant-garde iconoclast combined his love of Josef and Anni Albers with his Mexican heritage, describing his creations as “stoic Bauhaus Aztec priestesses”. Inspired by the Albers’ own trips to Mexico, Owens combined bold Bauhaus colours and striking geometric shapes to punctuate his trademark gothic silhouettes, presenting an aesthetic sensibility that moved throughout the collection and into his following offerings for SS21, with his “PHLEGETHON”. Creating what could be described as a 3D representation of Bauhaus’ abstract geometric imagery, Owens’ combination of colour and asymmetrical designs created a sculptural representation that calls to mind the painting work of Wassily Kandinsky, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy and Josef Albers. Forever entrenched in cultural reference points, Rick Owens’ work pulls from Bauhaus in a manner that, while abstracted from its original modernist point of view, recontextualises it within his avant-garde framework.

Perennial and everlasting, Bauhaus’ influence is everywhere within fashion and contemporary culture. From sculptural references to geometric prints and colour-blocking, it is impossible to imagine a world without its impact, and it’s certain that the fashion landscape over the past century would look almost entirely different had the Bauhaus moved not occurred.

writerChris Owen