Speaking to Samuel Ross, the London-born, De Montfort-educated creative director and founder of British brand A-Cold-Wall*, about clothes can feel a little bit like speaking to a fledgling philosopher about words.
Ross regularly refers to the relationship between the wearer and the garment as a “discourse” and he has said in the past that his aim is to “redefine the architecture of what it means to be a fashion designer”. In a recent meeting – during which he gave me a preview of the collection he showed in a hulking Milanese warehouse last night – Ross explained that said collection (of men’s clothes) was an “homage to menswear” and, in short, that he wanted to move away from the conceptual and towards the wearable.
Ross’ stream of consciousness-style of thoughtfulness is not only limited to the way he speaks. The designer, who was invited by Milan’s Camera Nazionale Della Moda (the Italian version of the British Fashion Council) to show during this Milan Fashion Week Men’s, may have made his name with a distinctive brand of high-concept sportswear (which rode the streetwear wave of the past few years), but last night Ross proved that he’s considerably more than a one-trainer pony.
Hot on the back of his BFC/GQ Designer Menswear Fund prize win, which awarded him £150,000 to help grow A-Cold-Wall*, Ross latest collection has achieved what the designer promised in his application for the prize. In short, it was elevated and grown up. Mature. Trainers were replaced with commando-soled Chelsea boots and brogues, while tailored overcoats (the teal belted one which opened the show being a particular highlight) and suit jackets were slotted in place of hoodies and track pants.
Where many other designers who found a customer base during the rapid expansion of the aforementioned streetwear bubble will now no doubt be panicking (streetwear, by most accounts in Milan, at least, is “over”), Ross, with characteristic assiduity and pragmatism, used the opportunity to showcase in Milan, the international city of sartorial sensibility, as a chance to move his brand in a new direction; he’s not turning his back on sportswear completely, but elevating his offering to appease a consumer increasingly seeking elevation.
What Ross has achieved with this collection – of which other notable pieces included smartly cut safari jackets with cinched waists and a pared-back take on a peacoat – is to redefine the meaning of his brand and reposition it as a future-proof fashion entity.
Dreamy though Ross’ discourse may be, the 29-year-old designer has approached the task in hand with ruthless commercial acumen and a steady head (a trait rarely seen among his contemporaries) and it’s for that reason I anticipate he’ll be showing in both London and beyond for many more seasons to come.