The Brutally Honest Truth About Fashion’s Concrete Obsession


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Brutalism isn’t just your average architectural style – it’s the rebellious teenager of post-war design that refused to play nice. 

Born in the 1950s, this architectural movement said bye to frills and hello to raw, unadorned concrete. 

Imagine buildings that look like they’ve been chiseled from giant blocks of gray Play-Doh, and you’re halfway there. 

Le Corbusier, the movement’s cool uncle, coined the term “béton brut” (raw concrete), and suddenly, everyone wanted their buildings to look like futuristic bunkers. 

It was all about honesty in materials, functional design, and a big middle finger to the idea that buildings should be pretty. 

Who needs windows in a fortress, right?

Fast forward to today, and brutalism has made the leap from skyline to hemline. 

This transition wasn’t just a copy-paste job, though. 

Designers took the essence of brutalism – its rawness, its boldness, its unapologetic nature – and translated it into wearable art. 

Now, before you start picturing people walking around in actual concrete shoes (ouch), let’s clarify. 

Fashion’s love affair with concrete is more about capturing its essence than literally wearing the stuff. 

Designers are all about mimicking that rough, textured surface of concrete as well as the unfinished aesthetic in their fabrics and treatments. 

Some brave souls have even experimented with concrete jewelry – because nothing says “I’m tough” like a necklace that could double as a weapon. 

A close-up of a bold statement necklace featuring raw metal and blue stone accents, reflecting the rugged and unapologetic nature of brutalist-inspired fashion jewelry.

Slipping into a brutalist-inspired outfit isn’t just a fashion choice – it’s a power move. 

There’s something about donning clothes that look like they could withstand a nuclear blast that gives you an instant confidence boost. 

It’s armor for the modern age, minus the clanking. 

Wearers feel invincible, like they could take on the world (or at least a small construction site). 

At first glance, brutalist fashion and minimalism might seem like distant cousins twice removed. 

But look closer, and you’ll see they’re more like siblings with a complicated relationship. 

Both eschew unnecessary decoration, focusing on the essence of form and function. 

Where they diverge is in execution. 

Minimalism whispers, while brutalism shouts from the rooftops. 

Designers are playing in this intersection, creating pieces that are simultaneously stark and statement-making. 

It’s minimalism with muscles, ready to arm-wrestle your preconceptions about what fashion can be.

Now let’s dive into some of the most iconic embodiments of brutalism in fashion history.


Exterior of Balenciaga's flagship store, showcasing a raw concrete facade with large windows, blending brutalist architecture with the brand's contemporary fashion ethos.

Image Credit: Balenciaga

Picture this: You’re strolling down a Sloane street, minding your own business, when suddenly – BAM! – you’re face-to-face with what looks like a concrete spaceship that’s crash-landed into the heart of the city. 

Welcome to Balenciaga’s London store, folks.

Gvasalia, Balenciaga’s mad scientist of a creative director, has always had a thing for the unconventional. 

The London store is the physical manifestation of this vision – a temple to raw materials and unfinished surfaces that makes most luxury boutiques look like cupcake shops in comparison.

Step inside, and you’re not just shopping; you’re embarking on a brutalist adventure. 

Interior of Balenciaga's flagship store on Sloane street featuring raw concrete pillars, exposed ceilings, and a minimalist industrial aesthetic, epitomizing the brand's modern and edgy design.

Image Credit: Balenciaga

The store’s design is a masterclass in architectural flex – think exposed structural elements, monolithic displays, and enough concrete to build a small fortress. 

It’s like shopping in the belly of a very chic bunker. 

Now, let’s talk about the Triple S sneaker – the footwear equivalent of a brutalist building you can strap to your feet.

A close-up of Balenciaga's Triple S sneakers paired with bright yellow socks, highlighting the brand's bold and statement-making footwear design.

Image Credit:

When these chunky behemoths first stomped onto the scene in 2017, the fashion world collectively gasped. 

Were they shoes or small vehicles? 

The jury’s still out.

The Triple S takes brutalist principles and translates them into something you can (theoretically) run in. 

The layered sole? That’s your concrete foundation. 

The chunky silhouette? Pure brutalist form. 

The rugged, exposed upper? That’s your exposed structural elements, baby. 

The Triple S features a mix of leather, mesh, and rubber that somehow manages to look both premium and like it was salvaged from a construction site. 

It’s a delicate balance, and Balenciaga nailed it.


Exterior of the Céline flagship store with a minimalist, raw concrete facade, showcasing the brand's commitment to sleek and modern brutalist architecture.

Imagine a world where luxury and raw concrete collide in a spectacular fusion of high fashion and architectural audacity. 

Welcome to the Céline store in Miami, a retail space that’s more art installation than boutique. 

Back in 2014, when Phoebe Philo was at the helm of Céline, she decided to flip the script on luxury retail. 

Her vision? 

A minimalist paradise that would make Marie Kondo weep with joy. 

Enter Valerio Olgiati, the Swiss architect with a penchant for the dramatic and a love affair with concrete. 

Together, they created a space that’s as much a statement piece as the coveted Céline bags it houses.

The store is a monolithic marvel, with soaring ceilings and walls that look like they’ve been poured straight from the earth’s molten core. 

Now, picture this: A sleek, butter-soft leather tote perched atop a chunky concrete pedestal. 

Interior of the Céline flagship store, featuring a striking triangular architectural element, raw concrete pillars, and a minimalist display area, merging brutalism with high fashion.

Image Credit: mikael olsson

It’s a juxtaposition so stark, it’s almost comical. 

Yet somehow, it works. 

The brutalist backdrop serves as the perfect foil for Céline’s understated luxury, creating a visual tension that’s as delicious as it is unexpected.


A circular courtyard with raw concrete walls and minimalist lighting, offering a panoramic view of the city, exemplifying the stark beauty of brutalist design.

Tucked away in a quiet corner of California stands a monument to architectural audacity – the residence of Oakley’s founder, Jim Jannard. 

This isn’t your average celebrity mansion; it’s a concrete colosseum that looks like it was beamed down from a planet where brutalism reigns supreme.

Imagine if a supervillain with impeccable taste in eyewear decided to build their lair – that’s the vibe we’re talking about here. 

The house is a testament to Jannard’s visionary approach, mirroring Oakley’s bold, unapologetic design aesthetic. 

This residential beast boasts walls thick enough to withstand a zombie apocalypse, windows that look like they were slashed into the structure by a giant samurai sword, and enough sharp edges to make a geometry teacher swoon.

A modern living space with raw concrete walls and a sleek interior design, featuring a motorcycle as a centerpiece and an expansive view of the city, blending brutalist architecture with contemporary luxury.

One can’t help but wonder how living in this concrete labyrinth influenced Oakley’s product designs. 

Did Jannard wake up each morning, look at his aggressively angular surroundings, and think, “You know what? 

Our sunglasses aren’t nearly edgy enough”? 

The mind boggles at the possibilities.

Compared to other fashion designers’ homes, which often lean towards the opulent or minimalist, Jannard’s soon to be former abode stands out like a concrete thumb. 

This concrete castle serves as a perfect case study in how personal spaces can become extensions of personal identity. 

It’s as if Jannard decided to wear his brutalist thoughts on his sleeve – or in this case, live inside it.


A model walking in Rick Owens' Fall 2011 show, dressed in a black turtleneck, leather skirt, and thigh-high boots, showcasing the designer's signature edgy and bold aesthetic.

Image Credit: Monica Feudi /

In the annals of fashion history, there are runway shows, and then there’s Rick Owens’ Fall 2011 spectacle – a brutalist fever dream that left the fashion world collectively slack-jawed. 

Models strutting down what appeared to be a chunk of a parking lot that had crash-landed in the middle of Paris Fashion Week. Welcome to the concrete jungle, where dreams are made of… well, concrete.

Owens, the dark lord of avant-garde fashion, has always marched to the beat of his own drum – a drum probably made of distressed leather and cast iron. 

His Fall 2011 show, however, took his brutalist obsession to new heights (or should we say depths?).

The runway wasn’t just a catwalk; it was a concrete manifesto. 

Crafted from raw, unfinished concrete, complete with rough edges and visible imperfections, one half expected to see construction workers finishing up as the first model sashayed out.

Creating this monolithic marvel was no small feat. 

Rumor has it that the technical team aged several years in the process, grappling with weight distribution, safety concerns, and the very real possibility that the whole thing might crack under the pressure of too much fierceness. 

The concrete catwalk wasn’t just a backdrop; it was an integral part of the show’s narrative. 

Owens’ collection, with its stark silhouettes and monochromatic palette, seemed to fit in organically with the runway itself. Models didn’t just walk on the concrete; they appeared to be extensions of it, brutalist principles made flesh and fabric.

For the Rick Owens brand, this show was a defining moment. 

It cemented (pun absolutely intended) his reputation as fashion’s resident architectural provocateur. 

From that moment on, a Rick Owens show wasn’t just about the clothes; it was about the entire brutalist experience.


Interior of Acne Studios headquarters, featuring raw concrete ceilings, brick walls, and modern lighting fixtures, representing the intersection of brutalist architecture and contemporary design.

Image Credit: acne studios

In the heart of Stockholm, where sleek Scandinavian design reigns supreme, stands a brutalist behemoth that dares to defy convention. 

Welcome to Acne Studios’ head office, a concrete colossus that looks like it teleported straight from a 1960s sci-fi flick. 

By repurposing this brutalist relic, Johansson didn’t just find a home for Acne; he crafted a three-dimensional manifesto of the brand’s ethos.

Step inside, and you’re transported into a world where brutalism gets cozy with high fashion. 

The interior is a masterclass in contradiction – think plush fabrics draped over concrete walls, avant-garde art installations nestled in austere corners, and sleek design workstations that look like they’re engaged in a staring contest with the building’s original features

Interior of Acne Studios headquarters, featuring raw concrete ceilings, brick walls, and modern lighting fixtures, representing the intersection of brutalist architecture and contemporary design.

Image Credit: acne studios

Creativity doesn’t just flow here; it ricochets off the brutalist bones of the building, sparking ideas that are as unconventional as their surroundings. 

Marketing mavens, take note: Acne’s HQ isn’t just a workspace; it’s a brand image goldmine. 

Every nook and cranny screams photo op, turning mundane office moments into editorial-worthy snapshots. 

Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Acne’s concrete kingdom is how it marries brutalism’s uncompromising ethos with Sweden’s legendary design principles. 

It’s minimalism on steroids, functionality with a flair for the dramatic. 

The result? A space that’s unmistakably Swedish, undeniably brutalist, and unapologetically Acne.


A model in Comme des Garçons' Fall 2016 collection, featuring a striking red, draped garment and voluminous blonde hair, showcasing the brand's dramatic and unconventional designs.

Image Credit: Yanni Vlamos /

Imagine a world where concrete grows on bodies, where architectural principles become wearable art, and where fashion dares to be as uncompromising as a brutalist building. 

Welcome to Rei Kawakubo’s fever dream, otherwise known as Comme des Garçons’ Spring/Summer 2015 “Blood & Roses” collection.

The clothing defied conventional categorization. 

Silhouettes resembled abstract sculptures more than human forms, with jutting angles and unexpected protrusions that would make even the most daring brutalist architect raise an eyebrow. 

They were wearable buildings, each piece a testament to Kawakubo’s unyielding vision.

Textures played a starring role in this concrete theater. 

Rough, grainy fabrics mimicked the raw surface of brutalist structures, while stiff, structured materials stood in stark defiance of the body’s natural curves. 

The color palette? 

RED, punctuated by stark whites and dramatic blacks. 

The runway itself was a masterclass in minimalist drama. 

Models navigated a stark, unadorned space that felt more like an empty canvas than a traditional catwalk. 

The absence of elaborate set design only amplified the impact of the clothing, each piece a self-contained architectural marvel.


A model walking in Balenciaga's Fall 2017 show, wearing an oversized leopard print coat and carrying a matching oversized bag, highlighting the brand's bold and exaggerated fashion statements.

Imagine the fashion elite, decked out in their finest, descending upon a concrete fortress masquerading as a school. 

Welcome to Balenciaga’s Fall 2017 show at Lycée Schorge, where high fashion met high school in a brutalist fever dream that left the industry buzzing.

Demna Gvasalia, Balenciaga’s maestro of the unconventional, orchestrated a collision between luxury and austerity, with its unforgiving concrete façade and stark interiors, wasn’t just a backdrop – it was a co-star in Gvasalia’s latest production.

The set design? 

Absolutely nonexistent, with an all gray arena which featured huge gray pillars and balenciaga logos printed on the floor.

Models stalked through barren hallways and congregated in sparse classrooms, their avant-garde ensembles a stark contrast to the utilitarian surroundings. 

Sleek and relatively muted silhouettes dovetailed with the building’s imposing presence. 

With detailed color blocking perfectly complementing the sea of gray.

Gvasalia wasn’t just showcasing clothes; he was forcing the fashion world to confront its own contradictions.


A model in a Comme des Garçons Spring 1997 outfit, featuring an exaggerated, distorted silhouette in a checkered pattern, showcasing the brand's innovative and unconventional approach to fashion.

Picture a fashion show where models resemble walking sculptures, their bodies transformed into abstract forms that defy conventional notions of beauty and proportion. 

Welcome to Rei Kawakubo’s Spring/Summer 1997 “Lumps and Bumps” collection for Comme des Garçons – a sartorial earthquake that sent shockwaves through the fashion world and continues to reverberate decades later.

Kawakubo, the grand dame of avant-garde fashion, didn’t just push boundaries with this collection – she bulldozed right through them, leaving a trail of bewildered fashion editors in her wake. 

Silhouettes? Forget everything you thought you knew. 

Kawakubo’s creations featured protrusions and bulges in unexpected places, transforming models into walking Rorschach tests of fabric and form. 

Padding and structural elements were strategically placed to create alien-like forms, while fabrics were manipulated to hold these impossible shapes. 

The result? 

Garments that looked less like clothing and more like wearable architecture.

A model in a Comme des Garçons Spring 1997 outfit, characterized by a gingham pattern with an unusual, padded silhouette, exemplifying the brand's avant-garde design.

Image Credit: Condé Nast Archive

Looking back, “Lumps and Bumps” stands as a watershed moment in fashion history. It paved the way for designers to think of clothing not just as adornment, but as a means of radically reimagining the human form. 

In a world of fast fashion and cookie-cutter designs, Kawakubo’s creation remains a defiant monument to the power of unconventional thinking.

Compared to later brutalism-inspired collections, “Lumps and Bumps” stands apart in its sheer audacity. 

While others have flirted with brutalist elements, Kawakubo went all in, creating a collection that was brutalism incarnate.


Models walking in Gareth Pugh's Spring/Summer 2016 show, dressed in oversized white feathered coats with dramatic makeup, presenting a theatrical and bold take on fashion.

Image Credit:

Imagine a world where foundation is replaced by cement, where contouring is done with gravel, and where the phrase “your face looks like concrete” is the highest compliment. 

Welcome to Gareth Pugh’s Spring/Summer 2016 show, where donned wearable brutalism.

Inspired by the raw, unfinished aesthetic of brutalist architecture, Pugh set out to turn human visages into living, breathing concrete structures.

The makeup application process was less about enhancing natural beauty and more about constructing an entirely new face. 

Makeup artists became temporary masons, layering thick, gray paste onto skin with the precision of master builders. 

The result? Faces that looked like they’d been carved from the walls of a Le Corbusier building.

Two models wearing Gareth Pugh's designs, featuring exaggerated makeup and avant-garde masks, highlighting the futuristic and bold aesthetic of the collection.

Image Credit:

Wearing this makeup was no walk in the park – or should we say, no stroll through a concrete jungle. 

Models had to contend with the weight of their new cement-like skin, the challenge of emoting through a literal mask, and the very real fear that a smile might cause their face to crack. 

The concrete faces weren’t just a standalone gimmick; they were an integral part of Pugh’s overall vision. 

Every shot from the show looked like a still from a particularly stylish post-apocalyptic film. 

The audience, meanwhile, couldn’t decide if they were witnessing the future of beauty or the death of conventional makeup.

Post-show skincare for the models was less about moisturizing and more about excavation. 

Removing the concrete-like makeup required industrial-strength cleansers, the patience of a saint, and possibly a small jackhammer.


A model in a Viktor & Rolf Fall 1999 couture outfit outfit, featuring a simple, raw-edged, burlap-textured dress, reflecting the brutalist-inspired honesty in materials.

Image Credit: Condé Nast Archive

In the waning moments of the 20th century, as the fashion world braced for the impending Y2K apocalypse, Viktor & Rolf unleashed a sartorial spectacle, the Spring/Summer 1999 Russian Doll collection.

Picture this: a lone model stands motionless on a rotating platform, a blank canvas awaiting transformation. 

Layer upon layer of clothing is added, each more voluminous than the last, until our hapless model resembles nothing so much as a sentient, fashion-forward matryoshka doll.

The brutalist elements in this collection hit you like a concrete slab to the face. 

The layering wasn’t just excessive; it was architectural. 

Each garment built upon the last with the uncompromising logic of a brutalist structure, creating a human edifice of fabric and form. 

A model wearing a Viktor & Rolf Fall 1999 couture outfit, characterized by a large, glittering, structured garment that envelops her body, showcasing the brand's avant-garde approach to fashion.

Materials and textures played a starring role in this concrete theater of the absurd. 

Heavy fabrics draped and folded with all the subtlety of a brutalist façade. 

The symbolism was layered thicker than the garments themselves. 

Was this a commentary on the nature of identity? 

A critique of fashion’s excesses? 

A really elaborate way of avoiding checked baggage fees? 

The fashion world collectively scratched its head, then ordered another round of champagne.

The parallels between the Russian Doll collection and architectural brutalism are striking. 

Both celebrate the honest expression of materials and construction. 

Both challenge conventional notions of beauty and function. 

And both have a knack for making viewers deeply uncomfortable while simultaneously captivating them.