Fashion label A-Cold-Wall - set up five years ago - was the highlight of the last day of the London fashion week men’s shows in London. While not yet a household name, consider that a matter of time. Hours after designer Samuel Ross unveiled his spring/summer 2020 collection, he scooped the British Fashion Council and GQ menswear prize, showing the faith that the British fashion industry have in him to take operations global.
This is a brand that has grown impressively on social media – with nearly 600k dedicated followers on Instagram. Ross paid this audience back on a rainy Monday afternoon: for his fourth show, around 100 young people dressed in hoodies, bucket hats and trainers joined the fashion crowd and celebrities including Arsenal player Héctor Bellerín, film director Steve McQueen and rapper A$AP Ferg.
Watching the show from a balcony at an industrial printworks in south-east London, many members of the public filmed the event on smart phones in order to post video to their social media accounts. Arguably, in the modern era, this peer-to-peer coverage is priceless. It has helped A-Cold-Wall go from five stockists in 2014 to 165 in 2019, and gain a place in the hypebeast scene alongside Supreme, Palace and Off-White, the label founded by Ross’s mentor Virgil Abloh.
Ross is also gaining fans within the industry now – winning Emerging Menswear Talent at the British Fashion Awards last year. Last month, he joined the Copenhagen fashion summit to discuss sustainability with Nike’s chief design officer, John Hoke.
The collection continued the themes that Ross has established. He takes silhouettes associated with streetwear – hooded jackets, parkas, combat trousers – and reduces them down to minimal elements, with an architectural feel. A hooded top had armour-like oversleeves, while a jacket with multiple pockets looked like a fashion take on survivalist gear. Some pieces showed a move towards tailoring, with some suits and a trench shape throughout. Canvas boots, a collaboration with Converse, will no doubt sell out before they even hit those 165 stores.
While the designs are pretty wearable, Ross adds a sense of drama through pounding music and styling. Most models had clay coating part of their skin, and some had lead stuck to their faces. According to the show notes, this element was about “exploring our storied relationship between material and emotion”.
After the show, Ross – a serene presence dressed in a white shirt and matching trousers, with bare feet, despite the concrete floor – continued with the high-brow pronouncements. “I wanted to imbue the heaviness of lead into garment form,” he said. “My father is a stained-glass artist, one of the only black stained-glass artists in the country. I grew up with him moulding and working with lead.” He then asked: “How do we expand on the relationship to object and how object permeates and influences how we operate in social space?”
His thoughts on bringing A-Cold-Wall fans into the show were less academic. As a black, working-class designer, Ross is still unusual in fashion. He wants to open doors to others.
“The main reason I wanted to invite the public in was so there wasn’t this conservative division which is often in fashion,” he says. “It doesn’t feel very liberal to me.” Ross first studied graphic design and product design before setting up his brand.
“I entered fashion from a slightly different angle and I want to make sure that my position is used to incubate that [for others].” He is taking this inclusivity seriously, donating his bursary from the Newgen initiative to a younger designer, 20-year-old Eastwood Danso, who showed at London Fashion Week Mens on Saturday. “I’m speaking boldly here but I wish this to be a trend,” said Ross. “We should feed back in to the industry.”