The Zipless Fold

Is it a texture, or a fold of the soul, of thought?
– Gilles Deleuze, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque


Consider the zipper.  Since its initial patent by Elias Howe in 1851, The Automatic Continuous Clothing Closure, underwent 40 more years of development before Whitcomb L. Judson finally patented the workable device we know today. Brilliant in its economy of scale, the zipper readily displaced centuries of clasps and laces, buttons and bows. While these lent a certain degree of functionality to life, they were clumsy, fussy and time-consuming. Today, these interlocking double-hook sliders offer quick, easy stability and security, not only in clothing and accessories, but also in preserving food (zip-lock bags) and even in repairing skin (medical zippers). Zippers not only save time, but also provide predictable, automatic, relatively effortless open-close operations. The zipper also has become a cultural meme. When we want people to keep quiet, we gesture by zipping our mouth closed.  The zipper’s modern aesthetic not only speaks of slim-trim commodification of the body, but also carries an erotic charge (memorialized in feminist Erica Jong’s passage of the zipless * in her 1973 novel Fear of Flying.


Now let’s travel back centuries where artfully folded clothing reflected manners and mores altogether different.  Consider the soft, cascading, choreographed folds of the ancient Japanese ceremonial kimono, some containing up to 50 yards of cloth.


Or, the starched look of Elizabethan and Baroque royalty, who sported 10-yard neck ruffs, puffed sleeves and gowns studded with folded pleats and pockets.




Many contemporary designers also allowed the fold to take on both an aesthetic and life of its own.Take Alexander McQueen’s iconic Savage Beauty fashion show (

Or, Issye Miyake’s ONE FOLD dress (


These fashions signify less about the value of place and privilege of earlier societies, and more about fluid identity. Through enfolding and unfolding, the post-post-modern Self is in the process of becoming. Folding inwards and unfolding outwards are a like a Möbius strip, continuously concealing and revealing.


My idea for Human Origami stemmed from my readings of phenomenologist Gilles Deleuze. Writing on metaphysics in his book, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, Deleuze explains how folds are the ‘smallest unit of matter,’ infinite and continuous. The ‘fold announces that the inside is nothing more than a fold of the outside.’ In this way, Deleuze dismembers binary opposition between inside and outside, between appearance and essence.


The flesh-fabric interface is with us every moment. Re-member this the next time you get under the covers, dress (or undress), or fold the laundry. Sense the space between the shapes, weights, and textures as they meet your skin. Open your senses to unfold a whole new range of meta-physical perception and meaning.