Mao Jackets a Platform for Architectural “Investigation” at USC

Written by


Move over Fashion Week. This afternoon USC School of Architecture will display 14 Mao Jackets, designed and created by the 5th year undergraduate students of Lee Olvera. The jackets are handmade with materials ranging from thumbtacks assembled with building caulk to hand-woven magnetic audio cassette tape to 12,244 pencil-top erasers sewn together-by hand (bottom left).

Olvera, an architect and professor at the school, conceived the Mao Jacket project two years ago, when, he says “my students researched various ideas of uniform and their associations with conformity. We settled on the white lab coat, the Mao jacket and the Nehru shirt for further discussion. Even though all three represented known silhouettes, their structure and detailing were plain and unadorned, offering the perfect platform for an investigation into the consequence of detail and material.”

Given that the dean of USC architecture school, Qingyun Ma, is Chinese, and so are several of its students, DnA wondered if the Mao jacket might touch on political sensitivities. But Dean Ma thought the project interesting as a material study and of ‘contemporary art objects,’ and, says Lee, “questions on the political connection have proven inevitable but were not part of our selection process. In the end, the students voted and selected Mao.”


As for what the students learn from the project, says Lee, “they examine several parallel processes of design present in both architecture and fashion. Ranging from the use of two-dimensional instructions, pattern and plan, to achieve three-dimensional form, garment and building, to issues of conformity, ready-to-wear and the tract house, to the luxury of individuality, couture and custom building.”

This is third year of the project, and 40 jackets have been made since the project’s inception. The jackets will be displayed for one afternoon only, today:


USC Campus, School of Architecture Watt Hall, Third Floor


2:00-6:00 pm