A-COLD-WALL* Founder Samuel Ross

Words: Chekii Harling

For the latest in our Designer Spotlight series, we spoke to Samuel Ross, the brain behind menswear label A-COLD-WALL*, to discuss the brand’s evolution, life in the sneaker world and his outlook on the future of modern luxury.

The SS20 collection, photographed by Adam Katz Sinding

In five years, Samuel Ross has grown A-COLD-WALL* from an art project exploring the UK as a cultural melting pot into an international menswear label, scooped up the BFC’s British Emerging Menswear Designer (2018) award and joined the shortlist for the LVMH Prize. Yet, despite widespread industry recognition, A-COLD-WALL* has remained true to Ross’s original intentions for the brand: an elevation of utilitarian workwear informed by a unique graphic identity. Synonymous with experimental tailoring and technical fabrics (a nod, in part, to Samuel Ross’s internship at Off-White), A-COLD-WALL*’s designs have morphed from elaborate streetwear pieces into something more minimal, as he explains here.

Samuel Ross in his studio, photographed by Oliver Matich

What have you learned since starting A-COLD-WALL*? 

We’ve been concentrating our efforts on building a design language – a brand universe that allows you to add layers of detailing. Whether it’s developing the brand’s tone of voice, colour grades or sound, it’s vital to spend the earlier years building an opinion and cultural resonance. Communicating [each new] stage to your audience, as well as sharing insights into your character and personal values, is key. It shows who you are, not simply what you are proposing. Controlling and regulating output is also incredibly important as we try to define the future of modern luxury.

AW20 backstage photography by Oliver Matich

What role has social media played in establishing the brand and its customer base? 

It’s supported our community, enabling A-COLD-WALL* to build in an organic way, connecting like-minded, creative people globally. These channels form the veins of the brand, and the body is the living community. On social media, we speak directly and unreservedly; it’s essential to project our ideas and opinions to the fashion and design world. It’s completely unfiltered. 

Founder Samuel Ross beside his AW20 catwalk, photograph by Jason Lloyd-Evans

You showed your latest collection in Milan – what do you admire about Italian fashion? 

Milan’s legacy. Its structured approach to menswear was critical to A-COLD-WALL*’s natural progression into intelligent, luxury menswear, while also helping us focus and enhance our signature styles in technical fabrics and artisan jersey.

The AW20 collection was an ode to classic menswear. Can you tell us a bit more about it?

The collection showed silhouettes A-COLD-WALL* hadn’t previously explored. Both menswear and tailoring mirror elements of industrial design: the processes are fixed yet malleable.

We acknowledged the reverence of tailoring while integrating our radical point of difference to get the right balance between experimentation and classic menswear.

Were you a sneakerhead growing up? If so, how has this evolved now that you design your own?

I still am, and always will be. It’s an element of the super-typical, hyper-normal British upbringing; Air Forces and Air Maxes are well known within all facets of British society. Organic, lucid shapes and ‘wabi-sabi’ footwear forms have been of interest to me for a while now. 

It’s vital to spend the earlier years building an opinion and cultural resonance

– Samuel Ross, Founder of A-COLD-WALL*

SS20 backstage photography by Adam Katz Sinding

How has the sneaker world’s approach to materials developed in the past five years? 

Typically, the integration of material innovation into mass production suffers at a supply-chain level because capacity is usually limited, with cost prices and material consumption incredibly high. However, material innovation is steering us towards more sustainable processes, but adhesives, lacquers and coatings are currently a challenge to supplement en masse. [Nike’s] Space Hippie [collection] is offering a new slant on such matters, which is interesting and beautiful – as reflected within our Strand, Shard and Mies footwear offerings.

SS20 backstage photography by Adam Katz Sinding

Virgil Abloh has been somewhat of a mentor to you. Is it important to you to support the next generation?

It’s super important. There’s no metric or formula to pass on – every designer has their own path and unique timeline – although a shared rhetoric and understanding that time is a precious commodity is definitely encrypted into all our endeavours and actions. 

Social media channels form the veins of the brand, and the body is the living community

– Samuel Ross, Founder of A-COLD-WALL*

SS20 backstage photography by Adam Katz Sinding

How does your interest in minimalism benefit you and your practice on a deeper level?

I’m excited to offer [fewer] products and more specialised categories, which mirrors my personal beliefs and philosophies, [which] I often share through my own social channels. I want to concentrate on what we develop and how we execute those ideas as garments – this is crucial to my personal philosophy and how we operate as a company. A lot of these beliefs filter into the SR_A [Ross’s design studios]'s philosophy and practice, specifically within industrial design and luxury objects.

SS20 backstage photography by Adam Katz Sinding

What are your hopes for the brand in the next five years? 

I’m focussed on moving the brand into specialist categories, while retaining our spirit of experimentation, and furthering our links with Italian-based producers. The goal is to continue building the A-COLD-WALL* universe, layer by layer. We see the next five years as an opportunity to concentrate and distil the brand’s voice further. This will be primarily through quality products and the retail experiences individual customers engage with. That spans from underground warehouse raves in Shibuya (held in December) to museum exhibit inclusions celebrating footwear innovation, to tight-knit installations and product launches, which come under our the exhibition umbrella, titled ‘Service Point 1’.