Zippers: Function or Fashion?

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Exposed half black/half white reverse  color zipper detailing on fabric structure.
Exposed half black/half white reverse color zipper detailing on fabric structure.

Since the 1850’s the zipper has been around in some form or fashion. Then, in 1913 Swedish-American electrical engineer, Gideon Sundback improved upon past variations and created what we now know as the modern zipper.  Integrated use of the zipper began slowly, but by the 1930’s it was being used on clothing for children and then on pants for men. For YEARS, the zipper was used for its function, while its artistic visual personality was kept hidden.

Fast forward to current day… In fashion, leaving the zipper exposed has been trending since around 2009. Since then, designers including Steve Madden, Alexander McQueen and Harve Leger have been integrating zipper teeth and pulls as a highly visible design element to their fashions. The results have been astounding! Michael Kors stated in an interview in the Wall Street Journal’s ‘The Pull of Stylish Zippers’, “For fall, we put zippers front and center because they’re fast, they’re graphic, and they’re industrial, like a great city.” Basically, the zipper has a beautiful, functional personality that should be displayed rather than hidden.

Zippers in fashion are turning into focal points. Zippers on luggage are becoming more in-your-face. Zippers on architectural elements??? Not so prominent. When introducing fabric structures within an environment, it’s time to start looking at the fashion of the zipper, not only the function.

To start, let’s define the zipper itself.  Just as any material, the personality of zippers vary.  There are plastic teeth vs. metal teeth along with variations in the size of the teeth and color.  These are a lot of personality details that, if leaving a zipper exposed as a decorative detail, should be taken into consideration.

Think of it this way, in his quote, Michael Kors refers to the zipper as “industrial”.  What does that mean and how is it relatable?  First, consider what type of brand may be considered industrial; perhaps automotive or mechanical.  These brands ooze cutting edge design and modern sophistication.  Now let’s jump back to brand personality.  An industrial brand may be better suited with the detailing of a black or metal-toothed zipper.  On the flip side, a more playful brand (children’s toys or footwear for example) may find a better fit with a plastic-toothed or brightly colored zipper.

The key to having a successfully exposed zipper is to have the right personality and the right purpose for the solution and the brand.  But have fun with the zipper as well.  Did you know that zippers are available in a number 30?  That’s three times the size of the typically used zipper.  Not up for bigger?  How about having either side of the zipper a different color?  This can either accentuate for detract from the zipper, depending on what the design calls for.

We will leave you with this…  With zippers trending in fashion, why not carry the trend over to the design-savvy world of event and interior spaces?  Instead of fearing the appearance of a zipper, embrace it.  In its own right, the zipper is a mechanical piece of art.  It is functional, but behind that function is fashion.

Allison Pocewicz

Allison Pocewicz

Allison has had a lifelong interest in multiple facets of design. Growing up between a sewing machine and a sketch pad, she went on to fine-tune her skills through studies in fine arts and fashion design. Upon entering the design/build industry, she continuously researches trends in various markets, including retail, hospitality, exhibitory/events, interiors and architecture in order to provide valuable educational and inspirational resources to clients.

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