Q&a / Fashion Spaces
”We will take more care of our cities in the future, not just exploit them”
On a new vision for fashion and retail
18 Jan 2021

Based in Oslo, Vésma Kontere McQuillan is an architect, writer, and editor as well as Professor at the Kristiania University College, where she also chairs ArchCommLAB research group. The group’s also publishing a webzine, Nofilter. Space, where she’s the Editor-in-chief, which is produced by faculty and students in interaction with external collaborators. It explores a new typology of spaces emerging in the cross-section where architecture, fashion, and design meet contemporary visual media platforms, such as Instagram. It’s comprised of academic articles, student and alumni projects, and reportage and published continuously.

While working on her main research project, a case study OMA/AMO x Prada, Kontere McQuillan realized that architectural writing lacked the theoretical framework to analyze fashion shows. So, she initiated the recently launched book project Fashion spaces: A Theoretical View. 

— This is the first attempt to create a ”state of–the–art” textbook for fashion spaces in the context of architectural social science, relevant both for architects and fashion designers.

The result is a new type of book that Kontere McQuillan calls academic coffee–table book.

— The content is theoretical, she tells, but visuals have a look of a professional commercial fashion/design magazine. Following an introductory academic essay by me and my colleague Kjeld Hansen, which tackles research problematics in the field and presents a conceptual model for further research, there are seven case studies developed by students to explore possible applications of this model. Besides, the book features fashion shows by Prada and Gosha Rubcinskiy. I see it as the future of publishing within the intersection of architectural and fashion domains.

What do you think about the future of retail and fashion spaces?

— Even if the pandemic’s global impact has become clear for now, as did its implications for all industries and all areas of our lives, I must say the future course remains uncertain, and its true meanings are yet to be understood. Much of the fashion industry has already moved online. The development of virtual spaces is accelerating, requiring innovative social media strategies and a strong focus on consumer interaction. At the same time, this movement to digital was very much mandatory. There was no choice, so there will be a backlash of people getting tired of digital realities at some point.

You mention social media, how has and will those change the conditions?

— The book describes social media’s impact and its strategies through case studies critical to modern fashion history: From the first use of Twitter by Lady Gaga to give colossal publicity to the live-stream fashion show of McQueen’s ”Plato’s Atlantis” SS210 until Kanye West’s Yeezy Season 6 presentation utilizing an entirely new format feed by reality TV. There are no fashion shows without social media for now, but it might change while looking for new exclusivity in the post-covid future. 

What’s typical for fashion spaces in Scandinavia compared to the rest of the world?

— I would say it’s a strong focus on circular product strategies and sustainability as backbone concepts. The fashion industry is currently going through a significant change in its approach towards sustainability, aiming to transform from a wasteful and polluting sector into a more circular industry. I believe Scandinavian brands are pioneering both fashion and spatial production.

What will our cities and city centers look like in the future?

— First, there is a need to reconfigured architectural solutions — both physical and digital — and develop processes or guidelines for a circular and sustainable future for retail and fashion spaces that are a big part of city centers. Right now, we are at the tipping point for many reasons, but this is an opportunity to reimagine our cities the way they should be through the interplay of cross-sectoral and research-based innovation. We will take more care of our cities in the future, not just exploit them.

The book is available via the publisher Frame Publishers’ online store and all big internet booksellers such as amazon.