Brand Focus: A-Cold-Wall*
Samuel Ross is the lead designer and owner of UK based A-Cold-Wall*
A label known for its aesthetic alignment with brutalist architectural principles, its critique of English working-class structures, and its innovative use of technical materials and treatments.
With thoughtful manipulations of colour, shape and fabric, Ross continues to express his ongoing commitment to celebrating an appreciation for art, with layered concepts that remind us of the link between thought and material form.
He has been criticized in previous runway shows, not for the captivating looks themselves but for their lack of wearability. This was evident in his strong SS19 showing, where Ross tapped into a mode of free expression that produced looks closer to haute couture than ready-to-wear. Regardless, he displayed a sharp talent for translating his ideas with crystal clarity.
A-Cold-Wall*'s Spring Summer 20 collection evolved past pure artistic sensibilities.
Still maintaining a strict adherence to strong conceptual design, his recent work is a refined commentary on the essential nature of raw materials. Each look represents a deconstructed aspect of material form, executed with purpose, and undoubtably wearable.
The collection, named “Material Study for Social Architecture” explored the intrinsic connection between raw materials and social structures. Different segments of the show, held in an old London printing press, were dedicated to abstract representations of clay, lead, water, and glass. Malleability, strength, fluidity, and transparency were all translated through body-mapped tailoring.
SS20 showcases a maturity in execution that is difficult to ignore, especially considering Ross’ position as a relatively young industry contender. Not one to stick to a single creative outlet, Samuel Ross has expanded his scope outside of the sphere of apparel to “luxury design.” He recently started SR_A: a new creative venture into the world of experimental furniture and avant-garde installations. We spoke to Ross about SR_A in our most recent edition of Conversations.
SR_A is really moving right ahead and there’s some ground-breaking partnerships that’ll be announced in the next year under the S.R. brand name. To give a bit of insight of what that is – it’s a big foray into luxury industrial design. There are few elements of accessible parts to the SR_A world… it’s almost a design problem, like ‘how do we make luxury objects with beautiful design, when we can’t access the immediate raw materials and resources to do so?’ It’s an exercise of critical thinking at that point.
Understandably, many eyes are on Samuel Ross. Including those of an unlikely contender. Italian denim giant, Diesel, recently reached out to Ross and A-Cold-Wall* about heading the fourth installation of their Red Tag Project, an ongoing series of capsule collections that has him joining the ranks of former collaborators, like Shayne Oliver from Hood By Air, Glenn Martens of Y/Project and Gosha Rubchinskiy of GR-Uniforma. Ross teased a few looks from the A-Cold-Wall* x Diesel capsule towards the end of his SS20 runway show.
On the surface, Diesel and A-Cold-Wall* have opposing brand aesthetics.
One label is a stripped-down representation of modernity, while the other is a celebration of denim’s international legacy. A-Cold-Wall*’s collections have been an ongoing commentary on British class distinctions, while Diesel’s heritage focus on denim has continually celebrated a material history deeply rooted in working-class culture.
What both brands do share is a recognition that clothing, and culture are inextricably linked. Renzo Rosso recently spoke about his interest in working with Samuel Ross and A-Cold-Wall* despite obvious brand differences in an interview with #legend.
I’ve followed ACW from the beginning and I’ve always been in love with the brand. I recognised that their designs could be a fantastic fit with Diesel, so one day I met with Samuel Ross, the designer of ACW, and invited him to collaborate with us. He visited the Diesel archives and we worked terrifically together. I think you can tell from the end product that he embraced our heritage and it feels authentic to our brand. I was quite surprised at how quickly Samuel embraced our materials and especially how he used the denim treatment techniques to create this collection. It’s an excellent interpretation of our brand DNA.
Rosso has shown an ongoing propensity for scouting out promising young talent. All previous collaborators who participated in the Red Tag Project were also young and changing the industry landscape in a fundamental way.
But like Rosso, Samuel Ross himself is no stranger to paying it forward. He recently donated a grant he received from the British Fashion Council’s Newgen initiative to upcoming designer Eastwood Danso in 2018. Ross spoke further with us about the importance of supporting and fostering independent talent:
It’s going to be these types of communities that get behind independent designers with forward thinking ideas. At the same time, this is the perfect storm to go about taking more forward-thinking ideas and proposing those ideas to market. This is a time of change.
This ongoing collaborative spirit is where Ross and Rosso have found a sense of common ground. Never forgetting their roots in social design, the Ross-Rosso collaboration is a celebration of utility and is an homage to Diesel’s rugged legacy, expressed in a collection of technical, avant-garde workwear.
The upcoming collaboration includes the use of vegetable dye garments, translucent seam-taping, and applications of the devoré technique: a traditional method of applying patterns onto textiles. Each detail in construction up till final product reflects Ross’ continued ambition of creating clothing that is innovative and sustainable, while still translating the brand voice of Diesel to a contemporary market. For Samuel, clothing is a social equalizer.
The first five years of A-Cold-Wall* were about explaining the story of the brand and where the references come from. Now that that's been established, I don't really care about my personal story, I care about telling the story of others and using A-Cold-Wall* to be a social equaliser in fashion, he tells Vogue.
The dye patterns used in the tie-dye denim pieces are reminiscent of traditional acid-wash treatments but are unique in their layers of colour and complexity. Akin to a traditional camo but still divergent in its use of vibrant colour combinations, these pieces unequivocally speak the A-Cold-Wall* narrative, while still embodying Diesel’s legacy in denim.
Other pieces from this collection are more obvious material representations of both brands coming together. The A-Cold-Wall* Long Jacket (ACW-JK02) incorporates smaller segments of tie-dye fabric, alongside panels of lightweight nylon in its construction.
Detachable hoods are implemented in the Overdyed Nylon Jacket in A-Cold-Wall* fashion, while other pieces pay more direct homage to Diesel’s material legacy, like the Denim Overshirt. Both perspectives are presented in a balanced collection that owes its success to meticulous execution of a shared vision.
The collection also explores a shared anti-establishment sentiment that both Ross and Rosso have addressed at various points in their career. A-Cold-Wall* and Diesel both see clothing as a reflection of culture and the social world.
Diesel recently came under fire from their audience after releasing a collection around LGBTQ pride in 2019. They released statement on their Instagram defending the move.
We’ve taken pride in our beliefs for 40+ years & we believe in #pride. For those who don’t, including the 14.000 followers who’ve left us in the last week… bye bye! To those who share our beliefs and values, let’s celebrate the fact that #loveislove. Always.
Samuel Ross commented on the rebellious undercurrent shared by both A-Cold-Wall* and Diesel in a recent interview with Hypebeast.
It’s also about the attitude, Ross interjected.
There’s a continuity of [anti-establishment] tying the two brands together… It’s also about culture; we have a series of films between Diesel, myself and Dexter Navy set to come out, with a soundtrack by Kelvin Krash, who has produced a plethora of hits for A$AP Rocky and others.
Filmmaker Dexter Navy, who previously worked with the likes of A$AP Worldwide, Alexander Wang, Dior, and Stussy, has quietly released a couple of short promotional films around the collection on Diesel’s Youtube channel and their website.
The first 46 second teaser video is focused on a subject wearing the ACW-Diesel Tie-Dye Jeans (ACW-PT06) and the Tie-Dye Denim Gilet (ACW-Vs01), layered overtop the Cotton Hoodie in Brown (ACW-SW02).
A dystopian setting is presented in typical ACW* form, but it works in its brutalist simplicity. An ominous, glitchy industrial beat produced by A$AP collaborator and producer Kelvin Crash, fades in and out of focus, and what we are left with are spaces and purposeful moments of visual appreciation.
The peak of the video has the subject jumping on a 2x4 to launch a cloud of multi-colour paint powder into the air. Temporal manipulations see the video shift forward and backwards in time, while stopping at certain points to draw attention to pockets of dust that mirror the collection’s tie-dye pattern. All for sake of continuity.
A second film on Diesel’s website has a different subject clad in pieces from the collection that lean more towards A-Cold-Wall*’s technical aesthetic. He wears the A-Cold-Wall* Nylon jacket (ACW-JK03) overtop the Nylon Pant in Black (ACW-PT01) as he stands among a pile of demolished bricks. The atmosphere is claustrophobic, and dust filled.
A similar rewind mechanic is used to restack the bricks, right up until the moment where the subject crashes through them, scattering the same cloud of cobalt blue and yellow used in the previous video. Perhaps a commentary on literal boundary breaking, the video is cut short before outside interpretations can be fully solidified.
A lookbook by Rob Rusling completes the release, with a fuller exploration into the shadowy aesthetic used in Dexter Navy’s film. Shots shrouded in darkness work effectively to draw our attention back to the clothing, right where it needs to be.
The upcoming collection was also featured in a showroom display, with visual references to A-Cold-Wall*’s signature utilitarian aesthetic, made completed with florescent tube lighting, metal bar displays, and a colourful backdrop that offers Diesel’s supporting voice in the mix.
The mysterious nature of the shots almost feels purposeful. We are able to consider Ross’ perspective in a more holistic way, without getting too distracted by our own personal interpretations. Ross wants us to focus on the collection’s core message, from conceptualization to execution.
Denim directly fulfils my philosophy of slow design and product that is living, [Ross] tells Vogue.
It changes over time, it softens, it rips, it can be repaired quite easily, it builds character. And that ties heavily with A-Cold-Wall* and my focus on texture.
Like denim, Ross’s taste and output is continually evolving and maturing with time. A-Cold-Wall* x Diesel Red Tag is explosive, intuitive and encourages a collaborative spirit between seemingly disparate voices. But Samuel Ross has much more to say.
Between heading A-Cold-Wall*, SR_A, and a year’s worth of collaborative work, it seems like Ross never stops working and is always looking to improve his craft.
SR: I typically start my working day at 6:45am to 7am and I typically get up at 5am ish on a good day. I have a glass of hot water and two slices of lemon, and one teaspoon of apple cider vinegar with a little juice. I’ll start eating past noon. So, there’s a set routine which is centred around the performance of doing my job really well and to the highest level.
But also, as soon as the ACW* day closes for the team at 6:30pm; that’s when the SR_A hours kick in. If I want to continue the 5 am routine, I’ll work till 10:30pm, sleep 7 hours and get back up. But there are times when you just go into workflow and you work till 4 or 5 am, which was yesterday. There’s this idea of a routine, but I’m also testing the threshold of how one can optimize their output.
RG: You don’t stop, right?
SR: Not at all [laughs].
The A-Cold-Wall* x Diesel Red Tag capsule is available in-store and online at rodengray.com