“My attraction to Fabric grew from the smell of ink on uncoated paper,” says Roberto Rosolin, the in-house art director of a club that has pushed and defined London’s nightlife for the past 17 years.
As a communicative business, Fabric has provided an open environment for locals, tourists and even the occasional pensioners to escape to. Perceived as much more than a club, the way of life it has created is represented by progressive design promotion. Fabric has commissioned David Shrigley, collaborated with design studio Village Green and is one of the only clubs to have its own art director, enriching design as well as nightlife. However, this cultural engagement, tourism and employment is currently under threat from Islington Council, who revoked Fabric’s licence in early September. In light of the campaign to #savefabric we look at the artwork and environment that represents “the Fabric that unites us all, that stitches together race, gender, age and sexual preference into a brilliant tapestry.”
For Roberto it was the art direction of Village Green that attracted him to the club as a tourist visiting London in 2000. Once he moved to England he became a member, visiting and admiring the club every Saturday. “My wife thought I was stupid,” he reminisces. “Every month I was super excited by the connection of music and visual image, always presenting different styles, mediums and disciplines. I collected the Fabric flyers for years, trailing shops in Soho for the latest one, or coming to the club and stealing them off toilet walls.”
Once Roberto began working for Fabric as a designer and in time the sole art director, he joined a family of like-minded individuals. He produces work that depict the expansive space, the music, and the personalities of employees that drive it. Roberto achieves this through collaboration with friends of the club. He enlists the help of staff, even using rooms one, two and three for photoshoots, “I wasn’t just looking for cool work,” he explains. “I’ve always thought that there needed to be a personable relationship with someone to create Fabric artwork. From photographers to illustrators I feel connected to the people I work with. We’re sharing an aesthetic and energy that reflects a night at the club.”
As a result, when looking through the Fabric archive Roberto regales into stories of those who encouraged and helped the work. “Lots of models were girls working on the bar. The guy doing maintenance on the club helped build the structures for one, he was the main problem solver in my art direction.” Working with just an assistant on designing both the Fabric club nights and record label, Roberto would look to his colleagues for advice. “We all come from different backgrounds but we share that love for music and for the club. I like having someone from the outside to say ‘this is good, but that’s shit’. It’s great to have strangers in your world to help you realise an outcome.”
Consequently, Roberto’s output forms a design language that speaks to its audience with sophistication. Despite Fabric’s success it has never capitalised on its brand, producing quiet design that provokes interest. This is proven by Fabric’s artwork of the past six years, it doesn’t display its logo at all. Roberto has built an aesthetic, a feel, that instantaneously represents the club. “In a way, the Fabric logo each month is alternated between different typefaces. Even the fact the size of the font on the posters is so small says a lot,” he explains. “It proves that you don’t have to scream at people to sell more. My aim is to find a perfect balance between the typeface size and image, it’s a very strong communicative characteristic of the posters.”
The reasoning behind this design direction is because Fabric is a business that doesn’t pressurise its audience into a purchase. “We didn’t want to be a slave to a corporate environment. As a result, I wanted people to engage with the artwork differently. I always imagine people in the club, it being so dark, them looking at the posters on the wall and growing curious, going closer, and spending a few minutes actually reading it.”
The visual identity of Fabric is just one part of a business that represents a distinct cultural moment in the history of nightlife. Across the UK we have seen the demise of numerous iconic venues from The Hacienda, The Astoria to Trade and Dance Tunnel. The #savefabric campaign is an opportunity to put a stop to this cultural demolition. Throughout its campaign Fabric has been selfless in stating that it’s not just fighting for its own sake, but to protect the value of all clubs that shape a city’s nightlife and beyond.
The Islington Council’s decision to remove Fabric’s licence should not be seen as the end of its legacy, but a stark warning as to how corporate and formulaic London’s cultural landscape may become if we do not support the fight against this decision. For the staff, DJs, designers and all of those who have been inspired by this institution, we urge you to #savefabric.
“We are Fabric. This is not how it ends.”