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Ready to ware: Why fashion houses such are turning to interior design

Wallpaper, towels, cushions, plates, there anything that fashion designers are not turning their hand to?

Harriet Reuter Hapgood
Sunday 18 May 2008 00:00 BST

There was a time when the two meanings of the word wardrobe – the large piece of furniture and the clothes contained therein – were easily distinguishable: one functional, one fashionable. Recently, however, the differences have been blurred, as fashion designers venture away from the contents of the wardrobe and turn their hands to wallpaper, carpets, bedlinen, towels, crockery, and the very furniture that houses their clothes.

Marnie Fogg, author of the book Couture Interiors: Living With Fashion, which explores the phenomenon of fashion-led interiors, suggests that the crossover from couture to decor is logical: "Interiors and fashion have always shared significant aspects of the prevailing culture: both are intrinsic to the way we perceive and express ourselves."

The trend has received approval from Anna Wintour, editor of US Vogue, who wrote last year that, "I've long believed that the eye runs naturally from the catwalk to the kitchen." Though designers such as Giorgio Armani and Ralph Lauren have been producing homeware alongside catwalk offerings for some time, Wintour's statement reflects on the growth of the interiors market in recent years.

The result – that outfits can now be matched to place-settings much as shoes used to be matched to handbags – is readily apparent in retail: Harrods is shortly to open a "Luxury Dining" room, featuring china by names familiar from the pages of Vogue: Versace, Marc Jacobs, Hermès, Vera Wang, Missoni and Julien Macdonald.

Harrods has also played host to three window displays featuring replica interiors of the Palazzo Versace, the Dubai hotel furnished by the Versace Home Collection that mimics its parent label's glamour'n'glitter aesthetic. Versace CEO Giancarlo Di Riso calls the luxurious interior, "the supreme example of a truly exclusive Versace lifestyle" – though, ironically, a taste of such exclusivity is now available to all.

"Buying an accessory from Versace, whether a scarf or a cushion, enables the consumer to buy into the brand in the same way that cosmetics commercially uphold couture fashion," explains Fogg. "It's possible to purchase the whole lifestyle – from paint, wallpaper and bedlinen, to scent and couture fashion – from one brand. People who are insecure about their taste might rely on the prestige of a label instead of making personal decisions. If you like the Versace label, then you'll buy from the interiors range and holiday in the hotels."

If Versace's hotel proves too Beckingham Palace, you could opt for Paris's Hôtel Bellechasse – with interiors by Christian Lacroix, whose style is synonymous with 1980s extravagance. "A hotel must reflect the character of the locality it is standing in, while giving its own interpretation," says Lacroix, who has also produced a range of furniture and homeware for the French catalogue La Redoute.

On these shores, the Hotel Missoni is due to open in Edinburgh later this year featuring the label's signature muted multicoloured zig-zag print, translated into wallpaper and fabrics. Fogg marks Missoni's crossover into interiors as particularly successful, noting, "Some designers have such a strong and unique 'handwriting' that it makes sense to offer the consumer a complete package. One of the most successful is the Missoni range: perhaps because, as Rosita Missoni says, she is not a furniture designer, she collaborates with experts and then applies patterns to things."

Similarly, Celia Birtwell, whose patterns have most recently adorned a limited-edition Topshop collection, has also followed the upholstery route, producing a series of furnishing fabrics. "I've never used myfashion designs in the home before, so this is something new for me, but I think they look fantastic in these new palettes," Birtwell says.

Not every crossover can prove as successful: while theoretically a Christian Louboutin table, replete with signature red lacquer on the back of the legs in imitation of the famed shoes' soles, might prove covetable, few customers would hanker after, say... a Primark sofa, or crockery printed with the now ubiquitous Burberry check. "For the collaboration to work there has to be mutual respect, a shared aesthetic, and a sensitive understanding of the designer's vision," says Fogg.

One happy, if less high-profile, match of aesthetic and function comes from Madeleine Thompson, whose cashmere beanies have adorned the heads of Sienna Miller and Keira Knightley. She explains, "I started doing the cashmere hats because I was tired of good- quality, fashionable cashmere being so extortionately expensive – and then realised that the same applies to interiors. So I created blankets and cushions with the same idea in mind. I think that there's very little difference between dressing yourself and your home – you accessorise your home in the same way that you accessorise yourself."

'Couture Interiors: Living With Fashion', by Marnie Fogg (Laurence King Publishers, £30)

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