Choose LIFE, not landfill – rethinking the department store for Property Week’s Great Design Challenge
Responding to a brief that asked us to rethink a 80,000 sq ft former department store into a space fit for the future and suitable to modern needs, our solution was LIFE – a Low Impact Fashion Enterprise.
According to the UN, by 2050 the fashion industry will consume almost three planets’ worth of natural resources to sustain our current lifestyle – but LIFE could be the solution:
- LIFE radically refashions a tired typology within our highstreets, reversing consumption and waste production by making them sustainable hubs of ethical fashion enterprise.
- LIFE is a temple of repair, recycling, re-creation, mindful consumption, education and skills exchange.
- LIFE supports and encourages long-term consumer engagement by stopping transactional and unsustainable retail behaviours.
- LIFE creates a platform for fashion brands to invest in community projects by hosting a closed-loop skills academy.
- LIFE will bring new meaning to the phrase ‘Are you being served?’ as it restructures the question towards a post-consumer society.
- LIFE will be an umbrella organisation that offers space to like-minded NGOs, universities, charities and community groups – it will be a fashion hub not unlike Kensington Market founded in the 1960s – home to independent small-scale designer makers.
- LIFE will deploy design strategies and tactics normally associated with repairing garments to patch, embroider, embellish, adjust, let out, darn, re-tailor and up-cycle the fabric of the building and re-gearing its spaces.
- Fitting will take on a whole new meaning – matching new uses to old spaces rather than tailoring them to suit. Escalators will be repurposed as goods transportation systems, foregrounding staircases as a much healthier way to navigate the building. A dye garden will be cultivated on the roof amongst drying laundry and textiles.
- Material laboratories will take advantage of the department store’s generous floor loadings and service zones where researchers investigate new forms of textile conservation and material science. The logistics, operations and buildings systems will be redeployed to accommodate the trade and flow of raw and recycled material.