The aesthetic purism of Knize Mode Atelier

Written by Arminé Maksudyan
Images by Arminé Maksudyan

Week 30
VIENNA

At the turn of the 20th century Vienna was reshaping itself, combining the House of Habsburg tradition, new ideas and concerns driven by Viennese fin de siècle and an urge need for improvement caused by urban modernization. Being center of vast Austrian Hungarian empire, Vienna was a hosting platform for different cultures and social strata as well as a political stage that attracted intellectuals from the whole empire.

The visual expression of modern social values revealed itself in the metropolitan outlook of Vienna. A peculiar environment, based on democratic views and progressive industrialization, premised a new urban space and a rise of modernism with its rifeness and pragmatism. The cityscape got reshaped, not forget to mention the “Ringsrasse” as a critic landmark for further shift, and led to establishment of new approach to whole design process and a consequent change in outlook not only of the city but also of its dwellers themselves, who together with built environment fashion a visual appearance of the city.

One of the most vivid examples of these changes, touching both the newfound design approach to architectural space and men’s outfit, can be noted in Knize Mode Atelier Vienna. The Atelier gained its most articulated appeal in 1910-1913 when Adolf Loos with his “radical aesthetic purism” designed the flagship store on the Graben, creating a distinguished contemporary environment fitting perfectly the company’s progressive concept of its day. The heritage men’s outfitter has still preserved its bespoke tailoring tradition of men’s costume offering “personal style defined by uniqueness, free of trendy imitations and compromises”.

Being one of the most remarkable representatives of modern movement in architecture, Adolf Loos was widely known for his austere architectural style and polemical writings. His aesthetic approach was referred not only to architectural forms and materials but also to decorative arts, objects and men’s clothing. The Knize Mode Atelier design project represents at its best the architect’s keen sense of style embodied in exquisite choice of finishing materials and in elaborated details of the interior prive any decoration and ornament.

Plain still opulent charm of the interior space extends to the façade of the Atelier framed by solid black granite blocks leaving a narrow and reserved passage to the world of fine-tailored men’s outfitter.

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Founded initially as a haberdasher in 1858 by the Viennese bespoke clothier Josef Knize, the Atelier was awarded a medal for a progress at the Viennese world exhibition of 1873. In the 1920s the company’s image got innovated under the influence of the Austrian artist and illustrator Ernst Deutsch-Dryden, who was hired as a fashion designer and a brand concept developer. Dryden managed to create a strong visual concept of the company through the advertising strategy associating the elegance of the English polo game to Knize products. Known throughout the world as one of the first menswear labels, combining both craftsmanship and style, Knize distributed the Atelier’s refined image into production of still existing men’s toiletry series KNIZE TEN, “whose seductive appeal is as strong today as it was eighty years ago”.

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