A woman wearing a sackcloth dress once told me that clothing is the architecture of the body. I repeated the phrase during some small talk at a sold-out event in the Diane von Furstenberg headquarters, as we waited for Madame Architect founder Julia Gamolina and WORKac’s Amale Andraos to take their places at the front of the studio’s showroom. Women (and some men) packed neatly into tight rows, a rippling sea of dangling earrings and bold prints among clusters of faceless mannequins.
DVF HQ is located on the corner of a cobblestone street in the Meatpacking District. In 2007, WORKac renovated the historical market building, making it usable offices and retail; the architects also built a private apartment for the company’s namesake that peers over the roofline like a rough diamond. A single staircase cuts diagonally from the ground floor to the penthouse. Sunlight spills down the staircase and is scattered throughout the building by 3,000 Swarovski crystals suspended from vertical steel cables that double as guardrails. (At night, LEDs keep the crystals sparkling.) Surprise guest Diane von Furstenberg called it a “stairdelier.”
Perhaps owing to the glittery setting, Gamolina and Andraos’s dialogue was absent of jargon, though not light on substance. The pair addressed pertinent questions that the young professionals in the audience sat up in their chairs to hear. On the economic outlook for architects, Andraos admitted that “it’s very scary” but that there is a lot of value in an architectural education. On the expense of such an education, she confessed that schools need to prioritize preparing their students for exams, as licenses directly translate to higher salaries. (“Or they could reimburse us,” I heard a woman whisper behind me.) Despite practicing for years and serving as dean of the Columbia Graduate School for Architecture, Planning and Preservation until 2021, Andraos only recently passed her AREs. “I’m finally an architect!” she said, beaming. We applauded her like a sister.
After the interview, attendees were free to mingle and shop on the retail floor. A woman who had already bought a suit was beckoned by a DVF associate to show her which one she had chosen. The purchase was wrapped in tissue paper, but the woman managed to peel enough back to reveal a sliver of fabric. “Oh,” the associate gasped, “that’s Diane’s favorite.”