A-COLD-WALL* founder Samuel Ross is growing up, and that’s a good thing as there’s simply more at stake.
What started five years ago from a small garage studio in Tottenham has grown into a fully-fledged global fashion business with 165 stockists, investment from Tomorrow London and more people than ever relying on the designer to bring London’s men’s scene into the next era.
“I started from hardship because those were the bearings of ACW, but I’m not in that place anymore and I don’t wish that to be celebrated now,” says Ross after his best and most commercial show to date. “I want to focus on a more positive future.”
For Ross that meant giving back. At Printworks, the former news press-turned-night club doubling as the show’s venue, around 100 people from the public stood along the balconies above editors and celebrities like A$AP Ferg, Steve McQueen and Héctor Bellerín. The location, he says, was an homage to the British manufacturing industry and its revival, as well as the designers early days in screen printing.
“The main reason for that was to ensure there isn’t this conservative division that’s often associated with the bourgeoisie and fashion. That doesn’t feel very liberal to me,” he explains. His recent design project, “Material Study for Social Architecture, made with his other company Concrete Objects, too, has been opened up to the public and institutes including Central Saint Martins and the Architectural Association School of Architecture.
“I entered fashion from a slightly different angle (graphic design, followed by commercial product design) and I want to make sure that the power of my position is used to incubate that type of conversation.”
Its that value-driven approach to fashion that sets Ross apart from many of his peers and a belief system that gives his brand resonance with the next generation. Last season, Ross was shortlisted as a recipient of the British Fashion Council’s NewGen award. He donated 100 percent of the grant to Eastwood Danso, a new designer who showed his debut collection earlier in the week. Recycling in a figurative sense.
“I wish this to be a trend. If we grow we should feed it back into the industry and open it up. It’s about validating [young designers] being here and putting new energy into the British fashion industry.
As for the clothing itself, it was Ross’ most stripped back collection to date. The show explored humanity’s storied relationship between material and emotion, questioning why we get different feelings around different materials. It’s something the brand has done since its inception and was executed well this time around.
Clay, lead, water and glass were recurring elements throughout the show. They reflected our inseparable, reciprocal relationship to matter, the scaffold of society, Ross explains. Halfway through, models wearing bright raincoat were protected by the artificial rain-y mist coming down the large warehouse, as the soundtrack playing distorted sounds of crunching metal, crumbling building blocks and breaking glass played on the background.
The designer’s father was a Central Saint Martins graduate and one of the only black stained glass artists in the country, so using the material as duct tape-like led moulds on the faces of models felt familiar. The earthy tones and refined silhouettes of the clothing made this season much more elevated than prior ones.
Body mapping through concise pattern cutting was used on garments throughout. Suiting was structured, architectural and reductive. Bags were oversized and brutalist. Memory foam, padding and elastic rubber occasionally used as hardware gave the collection a light feeling.
“I’m looking forward to celebrating the human form itself versus trying to protect and encase it as done in previous seasons,” he says.
A new cream boot collaboration with Converse was a standout piece and sure will sell well upon its release, as will the brand’s new collaboration with Diesel, its two new Nike Air Force One-like sneaker models and its soft color-blocked knitwear.
Shortly after his show, Ross was named the winner of the BFC/GQ Designer Menswear Fund, awarding him with A £150,000 cash prize and 12 months of high-level mentoring to accelerate his business.
“Congratulations to Sam, who I’m sure will become a huge global brand, a British home-grown talent with a global view,” said Dior men’s artistic director, Kim Jones.
With a fresh direction in design, company ethos and social responsibility, Ross has a good number of exciting years ahead of him.