DUAL PURPOSE
Wallpaper|September 2020
David Adjaye and A-Cold-Wall’s Samuel Ross on architecture, fashion, Covid-19, anti-racism, and the future of the creative industries
TILLY MACALISTER-SMITH

‘Architecture and fashion move away from each other, and then come really close, and then move away again,’ says Sir David Adjaye, on a video call from Accra. He is in conversation with Samuel Ross, stationed in London. It’s mid-summer and the world is in the grips of the Covid-19 pandemic and anti-racism protests. This is a transformative moment for both industries.

The architect behind the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, Adjaye was recently commissioned to create Brixton’s Cherry Groce Memorial and Abu Dhabi’s Abrahamic Family House. He continues to work on the landmark Ghana National Cathedral, and champion new African architecture and architects.

Ross, who founded A-Cold-Wall* in 2015, is a rising star of the fashion industry. A natural master of cross-disciplinary collaboration, he has partnered with brands as wide-ranging as Nike (to create emergency blankets upcycled from plastic bottles, with aspirations to make them freely available in parks), Apple, Converse, Diesel, Oakley and Dr Martens, as well as recently establishing a grant fund for Black creatives.

Their discussion covered the impact of technology, localised production, the politicisation of architecture and fashion, anti-racism, the effects of pandemic, and the future of creative industries. Right after, they were photographed – Ross in person and Adjaye via video call – by Liz Johnson Artur, who has dedicated her three-decade career to documenting people of African descent.

The following conversation has been edited and condensed; for the full version, see Wallpaper.com 

Wallpaper*: How does the responsibility of creating lasting works – as opposed to ephemeral ideas – influence your designs and process?

DA: There’s a bit of a myth with this idea of permanence, because nothing is really permanent, not even architecture. It all ends up disappearing. Architecture [just] has a larger duration.

SR: It all comes down to having the ability to quantify if a product should exist, which goes back to functionality and use.

W*: As a discipline, architecture can be really slow, whereas fashion feels faster – but that’s not always the case as the after-effects can last a long time.

DA: Fashion seems to be absolutely immediate, but [its] impact might be in the way we look at the bodies of males and females. [Take] for example the work of Yves Saint Laurent: it’s profound, it changes and resonates through generations.

SR: Totally. I kind of look at fashion like a moving slipstream. This idea of [how garments can serve] changes from generation to generation, as times move forwards and as social movements move forwards.

W*: How do the materials you use embody the ideas that you want to portray in your work? Does sustainability play into your material choices?

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