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  • Justin Boyd

Proud Heritage Clothing Campus

The incestuous relationship between fashion, music and architecture in the form of pop music videos, forms the cultural context for the Proud Heritage Clothing Campus, situated in Briardene, Durban, a landscape of otherwise neglected industrial character.

In a world where hip-hop, surf and alternative are well understood lifestyle genres regardless of geography, the omnipotence of media such as MTV dispense a constant reinforcement of the aesthetics of youth culture, but with subtle pilfering of ideas here and there.

This reinforcement of what constitutes the new and cool, is largely supported by the virtual architecture of music videos, a fertile area of investigation into form, fabric and fashion.

As in many countries, South Africa’s apparel industry has suffered an upheaval recently as a result of the rise of China as a more competitive supplier of textiles and manufactured goods. It is within this context, that the main tenant of the Proud Heritage Campus, has secured supply contracts from the major chains via a new model of supply. Design is done locally, but apparel is manufactured in China, then shipped to Durban, repackaged and dispatched to the national retail chains.

While the manufacture is currently happening off shore, a reversal of fortunes in the currency could easily precipitate the need for local manufacture again, thus the building had to be more flexible than a mere warehouse. It had to be a well-ventilated, well-lit, humane and inspiring place of work, with the possibility of sub-division should the client need to scale down.

The brief, included 2200 m2 of design studio, a staff and visitor diner, reception spaces, warehouse management offices, ablutions and 13 000 m2 of combined storage, loading and packaging space.

Ironically for a fashion concern, the brief was devoid of any requirement for branding. As such, the architects resisted overt branding and concentrated on an exploration that could stand as a critique of fashion, rather than of the brand itself, and one that could be a blank canvas onto which the brand could be projected when it in fact emerges.

With the plan being dictated by the logistics of truck-turnings, security, maximisation of storage and so on, the predominant architectural expression was derived through a modulation of the cross-section from east to west, in a response to the functions within the building.

This functional modulation, is simultaneously inspired by the simplistic computer-generated grids common in early 1980’s music videos, and since reinterpreted in Kylie Minogue’s videos Love at First Sight and Can’t Get You Out of My Head.

The connection between fabric and form, as the technical structure supporting advances in fashion, and then a further deconstruction of make-up and accessories suggested the elements needing manipulation from the architecture to the interiors.

Photography: David Southwood

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