Taking some time to put some focus on a label that’s been causing a bit of a stir since emerging over the past few months. A COLD WALL* is a new menswear label out of London founded by Samuel Ross. A Graphic Design graduate of De Montfort University in Leicester with an already impressive list of accolades, it looks like Ross has been cutting his teeth working closely with Virgil Abloh of OFF-WHITE and has now started A COLD WALL* as his own clothing project.
The brand’s ethos centralises around intersections between tastes and tendencies of upper and lower classes of society, exploring the dialogue between high and low culture in which style is often formed on the streets whilst the gatekeepers always seem to remain in the upper echelons. As fashion and art has become more commonplace within society—post-Warhol, Hirst and YBAs, Simons, Supreme and indeed Abloh—this discussion has really heated up and is definitely an interesting one.
We accept that much of style and fashion is dictated by high fashion figureheads, but the revival and recurrence of subculture styles and sensibilities such as punk, rave, new romantic and goth suggests that the conversation doesn’t always simply travel in one direction. There’s a difference between Coco Chanel’s iconic designs and Raf Simon’s use of New Order imagery and references, but both end up lumped within high fashion. The same issue emerged with my post about sneakers the other day; as the two worlds move closer together, the question keeps arising as to who is more dependent on the other.
So, back to A COLD WALL*. The clothing is stripped down and straightforward with classic silhouettes and subtle intertextual touches at points. It’s hard not to look at the nylon overcoat, for example, and not notice the Polo-esque extended back hem. Similar to his mentor Virgil, Ross uses Champion blanks for some of the sweats and tees with healthy hits of typography and striking visuals. Palettes are mostly washed out tans and slates with flashes of red and blue, and everything’s easy on the eyes overall.
The part of the concept that sticks with me is the interplay between the simple and understated basics against their more developed outerwear counterparts. A lot of the styles and looks demonstrate how an otherwise street-level ensemble of t-shirt and shorts transforms into a contemporary catwalk look through the addition of an overcoat. Moves like that demonstrate how much the walls are being dismantled in fashion at the moment, so that’s something nice to think about.
As for the brand itself? I think we’re kidding ourselves if we act like a lot of A COLD WALL* isn’t channeling stuff that we’ve already seen coming out of OFF-WHITE. The shoulder prints, post-modern text-over-image prints, high-meets-low approach to style and predominance of graphics all immediately conjure ideas of Abloh’s brand. Look at the website, for god’s sake, it’s like stepping into an alternate OFF-WHITE universe.
Then again, considering Ross himself played a central role in a lot of OFF-WHITE’s recent collections, it’s hard to say whether he’s aping Abloh’s tried and tested formula or just continuing a method of his own that proved effective in another context. Considering one of Abloh’s clearest strengths is surrounding himself with the right people at the right time, connecting himself to broad corners of culture in a sincere and believable manner, I’ll give Ross the benefit of the doubt and say it feels slightly better done than OFF-WHITE’s shaky first steps. Put it like this; I’d rather see A COLD WALL* develop further than have to deal with more bait Selfridges collaborations and tedious stripey t-shirts from the Abloh camp. Unit to base, unit to base, shots fired.
There’s a few people out there channeling elements of Simons, Takahashi and Watanabe’s post-modern stylistic flare in recent seasons. To say that some have been more convincing than others is a headbanging understatement. I guess it’s an appealing starting point for young designers in the beginning because its nature incorporates raw elements that mean a DIY t-shirt and hoodie collection can genuinely stand up against more traditional “couture” collections if the concepts are well thought-out and convincing. That’s one of the things that makes labels like this more exciting as well; watching the designer develop as they build their capital and expand beyond modest beginnings. Here’s hoping A COLD WALL* spreads its wings and takes things further over time.
Check out the A COLD WALL* website to get a better feel for the brand or purchase something from their webstore. Keep an eye out for more in the future and in the words of Damon Albarn, I’m walking through the blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah collapse. Safe.