Jorge Ayala: An Ambitious Journey into the Spaces of Fashion

A few minutes into your first conversation with Jorge Ayala, it will quickly dawn on you that you are face to face with a young and ambitious man whose creative drive is a force to reckon with. Hailing from Mexico City, where he grew up, Ayala moved to Paris to do an undergraduate course in Architecture followed by a period of time in London to complete a Masters degree at the Architectural Association. After returning to Paris, in 2011 he founded [Ay]A Studio, a collective research laboratory that explores the physical dimensions that surround the human body through digital tools mixed with physical production and prototyping on a 1-to-1 scale. Parallel to this venture, Ayala established the Architectural Association Visiting Programme in Paris in partnership with Les Arts Décoratifs, a series of educational workshops that each season gather experts and students of architecture, design and fashion from all over the world. In addition, over the last few years, he has lectured and led experimental studios in Canada, China, Costa Rica, France, Iran, Italy, Malaysia, Mexico, Sweden, Switzerland, UK and USA.

As Ayala starts expanding his entrepreneurial ambition into the fashion realm in the form of a new range of eight silk scarves made in France under the Jorge Ayala Collection moniker, I met him to find out about his sartorial projects for the future.

The Style Examiner (TSE): You have dabbled in fashion for a while, namely in the courses that you teach that link architecture to fashion. This seems to be a trend for architects such as Richard Weston (Professor of architecture at Cardiff University) and his successful scarves business. In your case, why did you decide to start designing and producing scarves instead of garments or other accessories?
Jorge Ayala (JA): The current economic crisis has put the limits that the practice of architecture encounters under a very bright spotlight, in opposition to the highly mediatised architects and their affiliations to fashion. Many interesting questions are coming to the fore, such as, ‘is becoming an architect to do architecture – as we knew the profession until very recently – still a viable career path? What are the new dilemmas and even employment options facing the creative professions?’ On the other hand, architecture seeks to be part of everyone’s lives. One can experience architecture by penetrating a building but also by wearing a garment whose production entails a degree of precision that is very architectural. The Jorge Ayala Collection of scarves firstly started as a search for patterns as part of an upcoming couture collection. A suggestion was then made to launch those same patterns as culturally recognisable products such as scarves.

TSE: There are very architectural shapes in the designs of most of your scarves, almost like a playful extension of the blueprint onto the fabric. What or who inspired the first Jorge Ayala Collection designs?
JA: I believe that architecture and clothing traditions make each culture unique. On our latest approaches at [Ay]A Studio, we insisted on dissecting and analysing the fundamental differences between fashion, clothing and design. In that sense, I don’t want to be perceived as a fashion designer; rather, as an architect who designs clothes. The first scarves collection relies precisely on the spatial experimentation with digital tools currently in vogue in the architecture realm. I feel that the scarves will be successful when they offer an insight into what [Ay]A produces, allowing our debate and output to exist beyond an endless archive of digital design files.

TSE: What are your future plans for the Jorge Ayala label? New scarves designs? More accessories? A move to designing and producing garments?
JA: We have been exploring the concept of body boundaries for a couple of years now. In 2013, we intend to identify ways to crystallise the ongoing research while becoming more competitive on the global clothing design market. Since we started, we have been looking at the human body and its constraints when faced with space and how design plays a resolving role in that process. In this sense, venturing into shoes and necklaces may be our next stage towards understanding design processes.