how a-cold-wall* is turning hype into a catalyst for positive change
“I started from hardship but I’m not in that place anymore and I want to focus on a more positive, altruistic future,” Samuel Ross told i-D.
“I looked at the hyper growth of A-COLD-WALL* over the past five years because we’ve gone from four stockists to 165,” Samuel Ross told i-D, “but this is about opening up the brand and building on our success to encourage the next generation.” On a bleak Monday morning, as torrential rain poured outside and a shower featured in the show itself, optimism and positivity echoed throughout the vast south east London-based industrial warehouse venue.
What began life as an art project is now a NEWGEN-supported, award-winning 2.0 fashion house with a multi-million pound turnover. Critics and an ever-growing tribe of fans alike are increasingly drawn to Samuel Ross’s multidisciplinary, narrative-filled vision. Last night, he was announced as the winner of the BFC/GQ Menswear Fund 2019 but earlier in the day, used his spring/summer 20 show to promote the next stage in the evolution of A-COLD-WALL*; “societal altruism led through social design”.
From the moment he caught the industry’s eye in the early 2010s, the Northampton-raised, London-based talent has been part of a new wave of designers challenging what fashion can be, dismantling exclusionary luxury structures along the way. Now, at only 28 years old, he’s set his sights on not just tearing down the industry’s previously impenetrable walls, but inspiring the next generation to follow him. “For me, coming from humble beginnings and entering the industry from a different angle [Samuel studied graphic design and went into product design before launching his first label, 2wnt4], it’s key that there’s a sense of accessibility and altruism that continues to come through with the brand,” he told us post-show.
As his spring/summer 20 collection, entitled Material Study for Social Architecture, refined the label’s signature shapeshifting sportswear-cum-sartorial sculptures, he invited students to be a part of his audience, offered fans the opportunity to sign up and attend, and donated the entirety of his NEWGEN bursary to Eastwood Danso, a 20-year-old creative collaborator of Samuel’s who showed his first collection earlier this weekend. “I’m speaking boldly here but I wish this to be a trend,” Samuel told us. “We should be using our platforms, our influence to feed back in to the industry, that’s all part of circular design.”
As Samuel erected support systems that will shape fashion’s future, the collection was grounded in four inanimate foundational compounds -- clay, lead, water and glass -- as Samuel probed humanity’s relationship between material and emotion. “These materials are the scaffolds of society and this is about me unpicking social architecture,” he explained. “It’s an ode to the past, while encouraging the future.”
While this was the most refined, elevated and softest A-COLD-WALL* collection shown at LFWM to date, it was also the most accessible and personal too. The everyday protective armour of previous seasons shifted towards more ergonomic additions to the body. When asked why some of the models had slices of lead attached to their faces, Samuel told us that they were an homage to his father, one of the only black stained glass artists in the UK. “I grew up watching him moulding and working with lead at his studio,” he explained. “It’s all about investigating our relationships to objects and how objects permeate and influence how we operate in social spaces.” While his collections continue to ask questions about our relationships with materials, Samuel Ross will continue to challenge the fashion industry to think about its relationship with people. A-COLD-WALL* is leading the way to a more inclusive future.