The collaboration between the Paris-based designer and heritage sportswear brand has surprised the fashion industry. But its launch at Depot Mayfield suggests the importance of Manchester’s place in the history of fashion.
Haider Ackermann is best known for off-kilter elegance: asymmetrical draping, silk and defined tailoring. In their complexity and luxe appeal, his designs are very different from the kind of accessible sportswear Fila represents. But it was precisely this supposed incompatibility that attracted Ackermann to working with Fila. It gave him the opportunity to immerse himself in the legacy of sportswear, where he drew on a historical elegance that provides a new angle on luxe athleisure.
Equally unexpected was Ackermann’s decision to launch the collection in Manchester. The designer was born in Colombia and lives in Paris but was drawn to the city for its unique combination of historic culture and youthful innovation. Over the past decade or so, Manchester has emerged as an important destination for the fashion industry. Its rise plays on the energy of its music scenes and club culture, as well as its unrivalled shopping destinations. Fashion is also an important part of the city’s history. During the Industrial Revolution, Manchester established itself as a major power in the global cotton trade. Nicknamed ‘Cottonopolis’, the city was home to the first experiments in mass production, and with it, modern fashion as we know it.
Few places in Manchester capture the city’s unique history like Depot Mayfield. Built in 1910 as a railway yard for Mayfield Railway Station, it was built to support the booming industry built by the city’s textile merchants. The building was used by the Royal Mail as a distribution centre until the 1980s, after which it lay dormant for almost three decades. Its recent transformation into a multi-use performance space is a symbolic marker of Manchester’s transition from industrial powerhouse to cultural capital.
The building’s industrial heritage has been retained as fully as possible, with original raw concrete floors, exposed brick and metalwork and huge iron struts supporting the vaults. Ackermann and Fila launched the collection in one of the cavernous underground spaces, with a dramatic white catwalk stretching the length of the space, brightly lit from one end. The runway was followed by an equally striking dinner, set in monochrome with white and silver places. Ackermann was joined on the night by a mixture of local and international guests, including his regular collaborator Timothée Chalamet. The collection celebrated the history and elegance of heritage sportswear in a venue that represents the often overlooked beauty of our shared past. There was nowhere better to show it.