Earlier this year when it was announced that London Fashion Week was moving from its much-loved home in Somerset House (its base for the last five years) to the second floor of a car park in Soho, there were more than a few raised eyebrows.
Although less conventionally beautiful than its former Neoclassical locale, the Brewer Street car park does offer a much needed upgrade in terms of space and flexibility that reflects the current growth within the UK fashion market.
To transform the new urban setting into a showcase befitting of the designer collections, the British Fashion Council enlisted the expertise of David Collins Studio who, under the guidance of design director Lewis Taylor, reimagined the car park as a light-filled, contemporary showroom with a concept based on lines of symmetry, transparency and reflection.
Finished in a cool palette of white, teal blue and silver grey - a nod to the British Fashion Council's brand identity - the design celebrates the car park's concrete structure rather than trying to conceal it. 'We were very aware of the fact the showroom would be in an urban environment and we didn’t want to completely disguise this,' explains Taylor. 'We wanted the design to feel like an installation within the space with glimpses of the raw car park interior rather than creating an interior that completely envelopes the existing space.'
A 70-metre-long mirrored ceiling catwalk that runs the length of the 1,600 sq m venue cleverly doubles the exhibition space's perceived volume while reflecting the light and enhancing the symmetry of the design. Off to the sides and reflected in the mirrored ceiling, are 100 showcases that allow designers to exhibit within their own private spaces without closing them off from the wider showroom.
To keep things light and airy, the booths are separated by translucent, reeded smoked acrylic while silver grey metal show rails, floating shelves and showcase plinths bring a subtle uniformity to the space - much like a 'mini-department store,' notes Taylor.
Visitors are encouraged to lounge on accent furniture pieces made from high density foam that resembles terrazzo, while a casual café concept in the form of a pop-up HIX restaurant provides the refreshments. 'The temporary nature of these projects doesn’t really allow for layering of details and finishes that our permanent concepts do,' says Taylor. 'The approach is to use a simple strong palate of materials and a small number of strong ideas.'