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When 1017 ALYX 9SM opened its latest pop-up in Paris before showing its Fall/Winter 2019 collection, customers were able to buy pieces like exclusive accessories from Dior (designer Matthew Williams makes buckles with Kim Jones, the Dior men’s artistic director), performance gear from Williams’ collaboration with Nike Training, and Ex Nihilo, a new book by Daniel Shea and OK-RM made in conjunction with the label.
The book is a collection of ephemera: photos and pamphlets centered around a narrative about peripatetic decay and creation. The Latin phrase means “out of nothing,” and itself loosely tells a story of how things come into being.
“All output becomes input,” says Matthew Williams backstage. “Everything comes from the earth, and it goes back into it.”
1017 ALYX 9SM’s collection, pop-up, and showroom exist as a larger part of one entity. In some ways, this season is about monoliths, from mountains of Ibiza to the cavernous parking garage that has become the label’s home away from home. Once, this space was the office of Libération, a French newspaper founded by philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre in 1973.
As Sartre once wrote in Being and Nothinginess: “Man is condemned to be free; because once thrown into the world, he is responsible for everything he does.”
Williams takes that responsibility seriously. The idea of reuse and creation with meaning factor heavily into the collection, which utilizes recycled, reused, and regenerated materials in all of the products. The show notes allude to how rote production minus intent “sucks the soul from garments,” and the invite even uses scraps of 35mm negatives from the Ex Nihilo book to reinforce the idea of output and input being interconnected.
“Prior to this I was always designing with the idea I was shooting a lookbook,” says Williams. “This was the first collection I was designing with the idea of doing a show, and I loved the idea of repetition and a singular vision.”
That repetition manifests not just in how Williams revisits his design codes, tactical apparel, distorted camouflage, and modular details, but in several collaborations as well. He once again partners with Nike on performance-ready training gear, and delivers another set of quantum-dyed, ultrasonic welded rain gear from Mackintosh. There are also collaborations with Japanese leather artisans BLACKMEANS and Majocchi, an Italian textile company with a strong focus on European uniforms and high-end utility.
Speaking of which, this season sees the debut of a new oxford silhouette, using a custom Vibram sole designed by Williams last year. It’s based off his previous chelsea boot, and the outer sole is removable, offering a more classic look underneath.
The soundtrack, which included songs like Chief Keef’s “Citgo” and WZRD’s “Efflictim,” greatly contributed to the modern existential ambience. After all, both songs—in very different ways—are about individuals taking responsibility for their actions.
Of course, Williams’ contemporaries like Heron Preston and Virgil Abloh, both of whom were also involved in the BEEN TRILL collective, are now fashion week stars in their own right. Preston debuted his first runway show earlier in the week, and the community spirit of streetwear stretched to the attendees, which included Abloh, Fear of God’s Jerry Lorenzo, reggaeton sensation J Balvin, and Dior men’s artistic director Kim Jones.
But Williams is quick to point out that this isn’t the fruition of some long campaign to take over the fashion world. It’s merely the result of hard work and mutual friends who managed to achieve the same dream.
“I’m not strategic like that,” he says,. “I really just make stuff that I love and I want to wear, and I want to enjoy moments like this with my friends.”
It wasn’t too long ago when Williams remembers being a fashion outsider, wanting so badly to be a part of this world. In his late teens he recalls sneaking into a Marc Jacobs afterparty. And he sees 1017 ALYX 9SM as a space where other aspiring creatives can make themselves feel at home.
“I like the idea that there’s a place where, if someone wants to come and participate, they can.”