ODLO via ZHDesign

Why “Zaha Hadid Activewear” Feels Off-Brand

I am a 63 year old mesomorph. In other words, I have a generous lower-third. I have never been accused of being narcissistic, mostly because there was no basis for anyone construing that I am anything but a rustic who once played the most rusticated position in football (the offensive line) at the lowest level.


No one would ever want to emulate my “style” let alone my sense of “fashion.” But as a culture, humans want to find a defendable way to express themselves visually. Many watch the Kardashian’s. We buy Luxe Magazine. We make architects into starchitects: we need to validate our aesthetic choices.


Now a Swiss company, Odlo, has taken a brand, the late superstar architect Zaha Hadid, and decided to channel her legacy into a sportswear line. According to Archinect, the firm is introducing “the ‘Zaha Line,’ a clothing line for its spring/summer 2019 Women’s Activewear collection.” The offering “includes a parka, tights and a bralette.”


Now you could argue that the reality of Hadid’s commercial afterlife is being used as a universal agent for good design, “parametrics” at the personal level. But the firm was a powerful extension of a personal presence—Zaha Hadid herself, whose untimely death in her sixties was unexpected, but understandable given her incredible intensity. By all accounts she was frenetic and fully devoted to architecture, but no one ever noted that she led the life of someone who wore (or even contemplated) “activewear.”


Despite working out every day, I never wear (or contemplate) “activewear” either.


And I am no starchitect, for good or ill.


Instead, we have the Taliesin-ization of Hadid’s extraordinary and brief presence in architecture. Once the Genius is gone, the Apostles hope for resurrection: but all humans die, despite their skill and presence. Michael Graves is probably more famous for his teapot than his buildings. My own writing may have more meaning to more people than my 800 built projects.


We do not choose our fate; humans do what they are called to do, sometimes to the point of ignoring other things, like having a family or working out. Ultimately there is no validating path, just choices that we all make that find embrace and, if we’re lucky, elicit love.


Hadid received extreme love from many, if not most architects. Now, here, merchandise can give an outlet for that love. Odlo has opted for style over substance in this aesthetic connection. The clothing line has nothing to do with who it’s inspired by, just some glistening of a fashion luster independent of its namesake. Zaha was photographed shrouded in luxurious garb, at parties, at exhibits, lectures, but never, ever, running in a marathon, or working out at the gym. But those who value her aesthetic can now shroud themselves in some resonant reflection of her genius at the gym, on the tennis court, running a 5K, efforts that had no place in Hadid’s life. These things will be part of her legacy (assuming sales are brisk), for good or ill.


I think it’s called irony. And marketing.




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