We meet Samuel Ross, the brain child behind one of London’s hottest emerging streetwear labels.
It’s hard to think of previous time when streetwear was so slavishly fawned over and yet simultaneously omnipresent in not only its natural home of music but high fashion. 2015 was the year you could drop £725 on a pair of Japan’s Hender Scheme “Homage” sneakers that looked exactly like the Adidas Superstar or camp overnight outside Supreme for their limited runs, while the pinnacle of high-end normcore, Yeezy Season 1, sold out in minutes. High fashion and streetwear completed its uneasy merge into a beast with two heads – Authenticity and Hype – with no one sure which way they’ll pull next and who’ll win.
Samuel Ross, the London born creator of minimalist streetwear label A Cold Wall, might well be its first successful UK offspring. Sporting neither the eye-watering price points of Cottweiler nor the expectations of an established brand like Palace, the 24 year old, who counts Virgil Abloh as his mentor, has a clean slate on which to create contextual, high end streetwear. But with Off White, Hood By Air and Been Trill as former stomping grounds, he knows first hand the highs and lows of branding. “I don’t want ACW to be built on hype and endorsements,” he says, “It’s only about 11 months old and I want it to be built on ideas and if that takes longer, that’s fine. ACW it was a project and it evolved. There was never any capital to build it so if people didn’t believe in it, it wouldn’t be here.”
Ross doesn’t call himself a fashion designer. His early works consist of videos, product and graphic design and, despite A Cold Wall’s debut success, he prefers the umbrella term of ‘designer’. His rise in the USA was, he recounts, due to “trying to contact so many UK design agencies and all these cool brands and every single person aired me off. Then I contacted a few US creative directors I admired and one said, ‘let’s go, let’s work’.”
Heavily influenced by the melting pot of Britain’s tiered class system and his own working class background, his sold out A/W15 collection featured slogans like ZERO HOURS and NO WATER or prints of Josef Albers’ Nesting Tables on backgrounds of grey or beige. Ross’s return to England has put him in a position of creative carte blanche. “I don’t fit into the working class place now,” he admits, “but I’m not part of this hype conversation either. It’s freedom, you can see what can be done.”
That’s not to say Ross doesn’t feel outside of streetwear’s identity crisis, the question of pricing out those who live and breathe the culture in exchange for prestige and profit. “I put up this tweet the other day,” he muses, “then took it down cos it was so heavy but it was like, we’ve happily decided to whore our culture because we need money.” Yet A Cold Wall tackles its position of being luxury and streetwear with and alongside the clothing. In Rotterdam boutique ANSH46, Ross recently created a “moodboard” entitled ‘Spatial Awareness’, which used ACW pieces alongside an art installation that demonstrated the negative mental and physical impact of low-income jobs.
The label, which does smaller runs and where a tee will set you back about £90, follows a process whereby you “feel like you’re paying for a process that reinterprets what quality and luxury means. I don’t believe that if something comes off a production row and there’s 8000 workers on minimum wage, that’s not luxury, is it? Luxury used to have this parallel of handmade, and together they made sense. Now we don’t have that. ACW is a way to produce products that have this aspect of quality that comes with working with a small factory but goes through this process of humanising the clothing and enriching it with it these textures and washes, and it’s those that converse with people and go into them liking a t-shirt or design.”
His ideas are endless and wide-ranging; such as furniture design being part of the future ACW roster. But perhaps as a reminder that young labels need room to manoeuvre not matter how bright the spotlight on them, Ross points out that “people are watching and I’m okay with that but I’m just starting out, there’s so much more I’m going to learn and that I can articulate through fabric.”
Words: Taylor Glasby
Photographer: Luc Coiffait
Stylist: Kyanisha Morgan