There are certain collections you remember, like when a designer is on the brink of a breakthrough — those moments before a brand is catapulted to new heights. Of course, 1017 ALYX 9SM has already built a dedicated following since Matthew Williams launched the brand in 2014. But to become a brand with staying power, a certain elevation is needed. And this season was just that.
Part of Williams’ success lies in the consistency of his growth as a designer. From his early days at Been Trill, the art collective and DJ crew-turned-streetwear line that featured Virgil Abloh and Heron Preston, to his early ALYX womenswear collections, he’s been fine-tuning his craft every year. This collection, styled by Lotta Volkova, was his most confident and established yet.
Set at Le Centorial, a Haussmannian style building in Paris’ 2nd arrondissement that now operates as an office space, Williams showed more tailoring than ever before, shying away from the utilitarian streetwear category so many have tried to keep him in for years.
“Tailoring is a very difficult thing to do as a young brand because there are so many amazing brands that have been doing it for so long,” Williams says. His came in black, brown, purple, and gray, sharply cut overcoats and suits for men and women. The leather pieces were bonded to Dyneema, the world’s strongest fiber, and dyed with ECCO Leather’s DriTan technology, which uses next to no water during the dyeing process. Elsewhere, the collection included recycled nylon and cotton.
“It’s a nice challenge to approach it in a different way. Some of the construction and details that we’re tempted to do is about finding our own language,” Williams says. There were plenty of updated versions of signature items. Body harnesses were carried as handbags, with rollercoaster belts and other hardware closures present on new bag models, jewelry — a new category for the brand — and on the toes and heels of women’s shoes that took an abstract, sculptural form.
“I don’t really work in themes. It’s an overall lifespan of the brand. Sometimes it’s hard to say why I do things, because a lot of it just comes from emotion and a mixture of silhouette and fabric development,” Williams explains.
Collaborations with Nike, Mackintosh, and Vibram all continued in luxurious colorways. Last season, Williams and Vibram created a modular sole that turned a piece of footwear from a sneaker into a dress shoe when the sole was removed. On the runway this time, it came in new monk-strap, clog, and Chelsea boot variations.
The products and communication have all made 1017 ALYX 9SM a modern luxury house for a younger crowd who often feel disconnected from the products and marketing style of traditional luxury businesses. Williams and business partner Luca Benini, founder of Slam Jam, have created something unique. There is a camaraderie and sense of family built into the label. Alyx is the name of Williams’ daughter, and when his wife Jennifer, a big part of the brand’s success, unexpectedly walked the runway, the crowd roared.
Whether it’s friends, including Skepta, Ronnie Fieg, Don C, and Jerry Lorenzo, who all attend the shows, or models such as John Ross, Evan Mock, and Peter Dupont — the latter mentioned he likes walking for the brand because it makes clothing he would “actually wear” — people genuinely want to see the brand and the Williams family succeed. And that’s something few brands can claim to have.