What do American Apparel and conceptual art have in common? Unless encouraging the continued abuse of v-neck t shirts by the male population is considered conceptual art, then you’d probably guess nothing. Yet the company famous for it’s sweatshop-free production and controversial advertisements has managed to become involved in an ambitious architectural project. A collaboration with Ball Nogues has resulted in ‘Built to Wear’, an installation specifically designed for the 2009 Shenzhen Hong Kong Biennale of Urbanism and Architecture. The installation is made up of over 15,000 pieces of clothing donated by American Apparel. It was developed by Ball Nogues, an American award winning design team consisting of architects Benjamin Ball, Gaston Nogues and Andrew Lyon. They challenge traditional architecture by interspersing elements of art and product design in their work.
‘Built to Wear’ is a perfect example of their philosophy. The garments function as building blocks to create a structure which is meant to be temporary. Visitors to the exhibit will inadvertently dismantle it because each person is invited to take a piece of clothing. According to Ball Nogues, this addresses issues of permanence in our urban environments. Additionally, the use of American Apparel clothing is significant. The company is in fact the largest garment factory in the United States. Factories are constantly being moved from developed countries to developing ones and ‘Built to Wear’ also functions to draw attention to the practice.