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Pringle Atelier Oi
Aurel Aebi, Massimo Nicosia, Armand Louis and Patrick Reymond in Switzerland, image courtesy of Pringle of ScotlandPhotography Thomas Lohr

When fashion meets architecture

Pringle's head of design and the co-founder of firm Atelier Oï discuss the brand's conceptual new Shanghai store and the buildings they think have come closest to perfection

Before fashion, Massimo Nicosia’s first love was architecture. Now, as Pringle’s head of design, he can merge both his lifelong passions: bringing an architectural eye to the men’s and women’s collections with cutting-edge 3D printing techniques; and working closely with Aurel Aebi, Armand Louis and Patrick Reymond of the award-winning Swiss architectural and design firm Atelier Oï on the brand’s Argyle-influenced stores in London, Chengdu and now Shanghai. “Fashion designers work with silhouettes and architects work with volumes,” explains Nicosia. “Ultimately it is the same thing. We all work to generate forms and shapes…just in a very different size and scale.”

With the doors recently opened on Pringle’s latest flagship store in Shanghai’s Reel Mall, Nicosia and Aebi discuss the art of design…

Could you describe the collaborative process between Pringle and Atelier Oï?

Massimo Nicosia: At Pringle we all work as a team. Working closely with Atelier Oï was crucial for this collaboration. We first met with them in their studio in Switzerland, it was a good way to gain a full understanding of their work and an opportunity to capture their vision. For most modernist architects “form follows function” but for Atelier Oï “form follows emotion”. Atelier Oï were the perfect match for Pringle Of Scotland because, for us, fashion is all about emotion.

Aurel Aebi: Yes, the idea that “form follows emotion” is very important. Because Massimo originally trained as an architect, his approach is very familiar to us and we feel on the same wavelength. How we work together is a process of exchanging ideas that lead to a co-creation. The decisions come naturally.

Massimo Nicosia: My training in architecture has given me discipline and method. It has helped me to look at things in a 360-degree way, which is how both a fashion designer and an architect should approach a project. Architecture, industrial design, fashion and any form of visual art have a lot in common; we all communicate through visuals. Whether it be a space or a collection, it all starts and ends with a concept.

What is the concept behind the Pringle stores?

Massimo Nicosia: We hope to communicate Pringle of Scotland as a heritage luxury brand in a modern, engaging way. We maintain this goal from creating the collection through to every single detail of the Pringle spaces: it’s a balance between tradition and innovation, old artisanal technique combined with the ultimate technologies and a sense of contemporary luxury.

Aurel Aebi: The Mount Street store was the origin of the concept but each place is different and requires adaptations…The Shanghai store was much smaller than Chengdu and so required us to redefine and resize some components. You have to develop according to the space and context: one challenge in Shanghai was the darkness inside the mall but this led us to create a system of perforated elements reinterpreting Pringle’s iconic patterns and acting as a light filter. 

Which part of the Shanghai project did you enjoy most? 

Massimo Nicosia: The creative process was my favourite part. From the moment we started bouncing ideas back and forth in a meeting on a boat – designed, of course, by Atelier Oï – on a lake in Switzerland, the creative process was already underway. You do not expect a store concept that is later rolled out for a space in Shanghai to be born on a lake in Switzerland!

Aurel Aebi: For us, it’s exciting to see how different people from different cultures can create something in common and create something which they all believe in. It’s very satisfying to see a British brand, a Chinese owner and a Swiss architect all agree on a design and philosophy.

Do you believe in the perfect design?

Massimo Nicosia: If you do not achieve perfection, it does not mean that you are not a perfectionist...you never stop learning. I am always curious, always willing to learn more. When you feel that you are constantly learning, you can only improve – hence you get closer to the idea of beauty and perfection you have in your mind.

Aurel Aebi: It seems more interesting to us to be on a path that leads to perfection. With the three Pringle stores, we move ahead in the right direction but we will never reach perfection because we still have things to learn.

Massimo Nicosia: Yes, there is always something you have not accomplished, but this is the nature of any creative process and the reason why creative people never stop thinking and creating – any missed opportunity is your next opportunity. Every single collection or new store is an opportunity to do something new and better, to learn from the past and to evolve.

Which architectural design do you think has got nearest to perfection?

Aurel Aebi: Maybe the Barcelona Pavilion by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe because it is elegant by its simplicity.

Massimo Nicosia: For me, Maison La Roche by Le Corbusier. I can envisage a conversation between Le Corbusier and Coco Chanel wearing her petit-noir in that environment. Fashion meets architecture...or is it the other way round?