Laura Snoad, July 17, 2013
Using techniques more commonly found in Medieval architecture than fashion, Croatian designer Matija Cop has created a collection of sculptural dresses that can be assembled multiple ways without the use of stitching or glue.
Matija Cop’s latest clothing collection, called Object 12-1, features bulbous collars that resemble Gothic arches and domes, turret-like sleeves, and hems and necklines that curve akin to Medieval ceiling vaults and rose windows.
The garments are the result of Cop’s investigation into different construction methods as part of his studies at the University of Zagreb’s Faculty of Textile Design. Intrigued by modular systems, Cop set out with the aim of creating clothes that could morph into alternate forms depending on how the wearer arranged a series of interlocking panels.
He initially designed these panels in the simplest and most practical way, but soon realised that he had seen the shapes he was sketching before, in the stone blocks used to build the 15th century Cathedral of St. James in the Croatian city of Šibenik – a structure that had long inspired him. “It’s such a unique building,” explains Cop, “both aesthetically and in terms of the construction method. It was built in the transition period from Gothic to Renaissance, so the Gothic elements subtly appear in its visual formation.”
Tracing the architectural plans of the UNESCO World Heritage Site, Cop then adapted his own modules to take in some of the church’s Gothic flair and strength. “The tongue and groove technique that I used for the Object 12-1 collection is taken primarily from carpentry,” explains Cop. “The construction of St. James was the first time in history that the method had been used for something other than wooden buildings. Here it was used in stone, and it wasn’t until the 19th century, with the appearance of steel, that this method was applied to other architecture projects.”
The basic principle of tongue and groove is to create individual parts that lock together without the use of any binding, be that nails, cement or glue. The segments are designed to fit together in such a way that any stress put on them actually makes the joint stronger – an attribute clearly useful in the construction of clothes.
Cop went on to lazercut the modules, with their corresponding tabs and slots, out of a soft, water- and UV-resistant foam. This choice too was inspired by the building, which had used an unconventional hardwearing stone transported from the island of Brač to withstand the climate of the Adriatic Sea.
Every garment can be completely restructured and disassembled, just like the Cathedral. “I’ve also emphasised the importance and autonomy of the wearer,” says Cop. “He or she can construct a garment according to their own needs and, if they want, choose a different shape every time they wear it.” Although at this point a purely conceptual project, Cop is interested in its commercial application, although sees its value in pushing the boundaries of fashion and its cross-pollination with architecture.