When Fashion Meets Architecture

Arts & Culture

Sleek lines. Sharp angles. Geometric patterns. Precise craftsmanship. You’ll find them in fashion. You’ll find them in architecture. And you’ll find them both at Bell Works.

Fashion is ephemeral, changing with the whims of the season and its tastemakers. Architecture is more permanent, its style changing with the decades. Both rooted in tradition and spurred by innovation. Both grounded in the past and inspired by the future. Architecture inspires fashion. Fashion inspires architecture.

Where fashion and architecture collide, the effect of their designs is amplified, and it’s happening in the woods of Holmdel, NJ where a dormant icon of architecture, design and technology is waking up and welcoming creatives to come and be inspired.

The former home of Bell Labs, Bell Works is the reimagined redevelopment of the Eero Saarinen-designed space, taking shape as a work play space and a center for creativity. Even as it’s under construction, the site has played host to filmmakers, artists, musicians, and most recently, a fashion publishing house.

When Elle Mexico was scouting locations for its editorial shoot, it landed on Bell Works for its 2 million square feet of shootable space where they could set their stage and take advantage of the soaring six floor atriums. Each wing of the airplane hangar-sized building is flooded with light from glass windows and its glass paneled roof.

Photographer Santiago Ruisenor captures Bell’s personality, the building as much a character in the shoot as the models and the clothing themselves. It stands strong and deep against classic silhouettes, geometric prints and architecture-inspired grays from fashion designer Sportmax, juxtaposed with the stunning setting, full of granite-gray ledges, gorgeous glass and shimmering glimpses of sunlight.

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“The Elle Mexico shoot was a great fit,” said Alexandra Harrison, Brand Manager at Somerset Development, the real estate firm involved in the renovation of Bell Works. “The space is evocative and versatile based on it's sheer size and its large open spaces. For someone with a camera and a creative eye, the building offers so much in the way of artistic opportunity.”

It’s the kind of space that attracted director Daniel Arsham to chose the building to shoot several scenes of his Tribeca Film Festival-premiered film, “Future Relic ‘03.” Arsham, a fan of Saarinen’s work, deemed the 473-acre site the “perfect location.”

It’s also the kind of space that drew country singer Tim McGraw and his crew to use the Bell Works building and its sprawling grass fields as the backdrop for the cover of the singer’s 14th album, Damn Country Music.

The Bell Works building itself is experiencing a rebirth reconnecting to it’s past as a design icon and business center.

The interplay of fashion and architecture that Bell offers mimics the effect of more well-known architectural landmarks on designers. A triangle pattern may mirror the Great Pyramids of Egypt. Shining textiles might reflect the glimmering glass of the Louvre.  A slate gray, perfectly-tailored blazer can echo the great New York City marble behemoths, like the Met, the New York Stock Exchange and Federal Hall. A curved hem line can reflect the parabola of the St. Louis Arch, another Eero Saarinen work of art.

At Bell, Elle Mexico set it’s featured fashions against the strong geometric patterns of the monochrome color block granite and the glittering exterior glass panels, patterns popping against Saarinen’s monochromatic palette.

“High fashion and architecture are, in some ways, the use of different mediums to communicate ideas of social and cultural identity,” said Alexandra. “They are both driven by functionality, but also personality and style.”

Fashion as cultural identity is part of the focus of Bell Works as it creates a center for culture, technology and business within suburban New Jersey.

“We’re really focusing on our efforts on tapping into the culture around work, and that means bringing together several different industries, such as tech, finance, fashion and science into one space,” said Alexandra. “Eero Saarinen’s goal with the building was to inspire. By bringing these different but connected industries together, we’re doing just that.”

Architecture is dependent on quality materials and purposeful design. The very best marble and granite. Flawless glass that allows natural light to stream. Interiors that are functional, but create a pleasing aesthetic. The Bell Works space is unlike modern office buildings, in that its neofuturistic aesthetic gives a look and feel that’s modern and enduring, functional and aspirational, like a timeless couture piece. That quality is what attracts the fashion world to Bell. More than a building, the historic space enhances editorial shoots, it makes a hauntingly beautiful backdrop for fashions.

“We’ve had so many different designers, seasons and looks come to Bell Works to shoot, and each one has come out so incredibly unique,” said Alexandra.

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Bell Works has created an urban experience in suburbia. The multi-use community is designed for commercial use, including tenants like fashion brands and light retail. The space produces inspiration, innovation, and creation at every turn. For information about booking the space for photography or events, contact Alexandra Harrison.


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