Street As Runway: Visual Access, Stealing Legs and Selling Clothes

In my naivety while directing DWSeries I asked one of our visiting teachers, Omoyemi Akerele - who’s also Director of the Lagos Fashion Week - how our indigenous fashion houses could be as massive as the big names we knew on the global scene. She said quite a number of things but what caught my attention which I’d never heard was "garment districts". I looked up meanings and made a mental note.

Fast forward to last year, we were tapped by an ambitious Silicon Valley-based apparel start-up to propose ideas for an apparel district in Shagamu. Having done their research on the Lagos fashion industry, they wanted this district to be home to their fashion house while supplying talent and production expertise to Lagos fashion houses. Something like the Andela of fashion.

Their meaty research showed that the tailors who served the big labels and operated out of Lagos island were usually migrants from neighbouring states such as Ogun and Oyo who endured living in below par conditions in Lagos.

At urban level, we took note of the equidistance of Sagamu to Ibadan and Lagos and how it’s nested within fertile supply routes: Benin and Abuja. We thought this was a rich opportunity for supply lines of talent and merchandise.

Zooming in - on this site bordered on its four sides by roads - we saw a chance to create a shortcut and perhaps steal some of the human traffic off Shagamu stadium

With a site area of 8000 square meters, we devised a grid strategy to plan the site, and took 5 decisions:

We unzipped the site along a diagonal slicing adjoining streets; thereby opening up a new street. This street would later double as runway should they want to host their own shows.

We placed two blocks on either side of the new street, stacking them to allow vertical expansion and unlock future lease opportunities for the client.

We lipped the edges of the new street with showrooms to support visual merchandising

We placed design & production for textiles and apparel on the lower floors and situated the co-living apartments for tailors on the topmost floor connecting them at the top via a bridge to encourage a convivial atmosphere.

We also decided against the building touching ground with its belly, so we raised it, hoping that this visual access will nudge more legs to try this shortcut and maybe buy clothes.

To ‘cap’ it, we sculpted the columns to mimic the walking rhythm of legs. We hoped that this simulation will further nudge the use of the street and steal some human traffic off the adjoining Stadium.

Ultimately the building is just a channel, lending itself to people, movement and supply lines, selfless like the dream of its owners: working for its own sake but also for the sake of a larger community it's trying to serve.

Client: Affarel
Location: Shagamu
Status: Concept
Total site area: 8000sq.m
Architects: Design Party
Design: Baba Oladeji
Criticism: Adeposi Okupe,Olawale Kasumu
Visualization: Călin Escu