1017 Alyx 9SM evolves into a new era for AW22
For its first Milan Fashion Week show, Matthew Williams' label offered a collection that echoed the precarity of life today.
Images courtesy of 1017 Aly
After two years away from the runway on account of the you-know-what, last night, on the opening evening of Milan Fashion Week, Matthew Williams’ 1017 ALYX 9SM staged a physical show in a 100-year-old church in the Italian city. As much as it may have felt like the ‘return to normality’ we’ve all spoken so much about over the past year or so, a glance at the setup proved that we’re not quite there yet. Shown to a pared-back, socially-distanced audience of around 70 — a precautious approach we’re likely to see more of from those that do choose to stage physical shows in the midst of Europe’s Omicron surge — the sense of limbo that permeates our collective experience of everyday life made itself felt in the room.
It was conveyed, too, by the title that Matthew chose for this season’s collection: Fade. “I wanted to frame it in a way that conveyed the idea that there's this constant fade back and forth between a world we once knew and the world that is now,” he said in a preview the day before the show. “Between normality and this other surreal life that we've been living in."
Rather than attempt to design a collection that spoke directly to this existential ambivalence — to cater to the appetites of an audience unsure whether they’ll be out on the town or slumped on the sofa next weekend — he and his team stuck with a more intuitive approach. “I find it difficult to think about what other people are thinking,” he said. “It may sound narcissistic, but like, I don't really design clothes thinking about what other people would want. With my brand, it's really just about what me and my team feel like doing this season. I only do what I want, and what I think is cool.”
For AW22, that meant an updated spin on the impeccably cut, tech-informed shapes that Matthew has established as the foundation of the brand since its inception — Alyx, after all, is “about evolution, not revolution’’. Familiar archetypes — whether the brand’s own or instantly recognisable staple garments — were reappraised. Menswear trousers modelled on workwear silhouettes came in fabrics spanning aubergine wools, pearlescent satins, and buttery black leathers, while immaculately tailored outerwear with metal-clasp fastenings came in weighty cashmere and boucle wools. Elsewhere, hulkish jackets in heavy shearlings and slick, thick PVC created broad-shouldered, top-heavy silhouettes, the severity of which were counterposed times by the frou-frou camp of ostrich feather collars, and the feminine glamour of front-fastened bustiers with trailing trains, and a long-sleeved shift dress delicately embroidered with chain-stitched paillettes.
On the footwear front, a major area of technological innovation for the brand, we saw the return of the injection-moulded EVA foam Mono boot — this time with an elevated insole, a testament to the brand’s pioneering of new forms of technologically-informed craftsmanship — as well as the introduction of a new single-toed silhouette inspired, believe it or not, by bunion wraps. Esoteric as that may sound, the ability to elevate such obscure-yet-mundane references into a proposal that’s convincing, elegant, and forward-thinking all at once speaks to Matthew’s ability to “look into the ecosystem of today that’s around and myself and the brand, synthesise that together, and offer it up as today's meal,” he says. “And the next season, we’ll be serving something different.” Can’t wait to rendezvous in six months’ time to see what’s on the menu!