Wearing Your Wallpaper to Work

While there is no doubt your environment affects your personal style, Ben Pell’s Walldrobe Wearpaper makes that influence literal. The system consists of a series of thin leather panels that you hang on your wall as you would artwork. When you’re ready to get dressed, you take down your chosen pieces, affix a set of nickel-finished wire snaps to them, and voila: you have wearable clothing. The system can produce a blouse—with or without sleeves—a shirt, a skirt, and a pair of shorts. Holes are punched into the leather to make it lighter and more comfortable, except where opacity is necessary for privacy.

A trained architect, Pell came to the idea of a clothing system through a desire to experiment with fabrication techniques. “I was interested in looking at ways in which digital fabrication technologies—like the laser cutter or the mill—could be used to flesh out ideas about surface, graphics, and ornament,” he says. “Clothing was a particularly good fit since it is traditionally made from a series of patterns.”

To develop the system, Pell—a professor at Yale University and Pratt Institute—and his research assistant, graduate student Theo Grothe, began a series of experiments with different materials, including denim, rubber, linoleum, and even plexiglass. Finally they settled on leather for its durable yet thin and breathable properties.

Each Walldrobe kit comes with a CD-ROM containing AutoCAD files. These files direct your laser cutter to etch patterns for two possible garments onto each of the 12 leather panels provided. Once you choose which lines to follow and cut along, part of the rejected pattern remains visible, lending an abstract quality to the surface of the piece. Aside from the CD and deerskin leather panels—the latter of which can be ordered in any combination of four colors—the kit includes a bag of snaps and a tool with which to punch holes in the leather. The CD only contains patterns for women’s garments, but offers them in three clothing sizes: 6, 8, and 10.

“The Walldrobe Wearpaper project asks you to rethink the ways we understand and relate to surfaces,” Pell says. “It provides a way for you to be more directly involved with your surroundings.”

Pell does not plan to expand his production of Walldrobe Wearpaper. (He laughs: “I think my wife would kill me if I left architecture to go into the fashion business full-time.”) However, the kits may be ordered directly from Pell through his Brooklyn, New York-based architecture and research company, PellOverton, or at (646) 415-4198. A prototype of Walldrobe Wearpaper will also be included in “Technology, Performance, Ornament,” an exhibit on view at New York City’s Urban Center Gallery from August 17 through September 20.

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