A New Phase of Refinement

A-COLD-WALL*
Feb 19 · 6 min read

A-COLD-WALL* has shifted.

The period leading up to Autumn/Winter 2020 was one of analysis and introspection. With the brand in its fifth year, designer Samuel Ross re-examines the very building blocks of A-COLD-WALL* in forensic detail; philosophy, values, output and direction recalibrated as it moves into the coming decade and beyond. A momentous phase of change has begun.

Menswear as an industry must adjust course. The moment we’re living in requires new solutions. In the current global landscape it is no longer sufficient to simply uphold the status quo, now more than ever, progression is required and change is a necessity. Samuel’s understanding of the world around him and his own shifting personal perspectives became the catalyst for the brand’s evolution, its maturation.

Moving this season’s show to Milan represented a bold statement of intent. The city carries with it a weight of history, heightened expectations and a longstanding reverence for classical menswear. Placing A-COLD-WALL* against this backdrop signaled a complete reframing of the brand as a sophisticated, luxury menswear proposition. Rooted in the formalism and codes of the male wardrobe, A-COLD-WALL* Autumn/Winter 2020 translates these elegant signatures into future-ready garments.

In the wake of Milan Fashion Week, A-COLD-WALL* uncovers the processes driving this evolution, declaring its objectives and modes of thought in this critical new era.

System-based Design

Informed by the realms of industrial and product design, A-COLD-WALL* turns to a more rational mode of creation. The idea of the singular, emotion-driven vision of the artist-designer steps aside for a more studied and analytical approach. A wardrobe in which each piece works in harmony with the other is proposed, a concise system of clothing that is presented clearly to the wearer. This modular way of thinking brings each piece under a wider design architecture, one which allows the customer freedom to express themselves whilst codifying the process of dressing for ease of use.

The archetypes of menswear form the foundation of Autumn/Winter 2020, whether it’s the highly rational concept of ‘the suit’ or the timeless practicality of the mac, these rules are observed across the season, interpreted by designer Samuel Ross for a contemporary audience. Placing focus on sophisticated menswear staples becomes, not only an act of tribute to tried and tested design, but one of practicality — these ageless garments forever relevant.

While industrial systems became key, the journey of man and the order of the natural world played significantly into this latest collection. Elements, in particular water, were explored in both pattern and texture, alluding to the ways in which Earth’s systems, at once logical and chaotic, interact with the manmade world. Erosion and ecology are referenced in unobtrusive ways and reflect concerns around the modern landscape and how we might traverse urban terrains in the future.

Materials take on a new importance, their inherent properties as meaningful as the silhouettes they will eventually inhabit: texture, patina, weight, how they absorb and reflect light — information embedded within the fabric itself informs the direction the garment takes. Material leads the narrative.

Crucially, layers, accessories and footwear become problem-solving pieces. Functionality has been a central concern for A-COLD-WALL* from season one — Autumn/Winter 2020 injects a sense of opulence into this practical thinking. Whether it’s a rugged commando sole Chelsea boot, the subtle opening in a nylon layer to aid movement or a series of smart pockets across a protective parka — utility is fundamental. When viewed through the lens of elegance and luxury, the cut, feel and form of each garment is elevated by its usefulness.

Reduce & Refine

This season marks the beginning of a concerted effort to eliminate the unnecessary. In literal terms, this means a greatly reduced collection from previous seasons. Less looks, less product. The collection arrives without a title, garments, and eventually the wearer, defining meaning in its place. Paring the brand back to its fundamentals, each fragment of A-COLD-WALL* exists for a clear and demonstrable reason. Clarity becomes key.

Refinement sits at the core of this new ethos, its dual meaning more applicable than ever. ‘Refinement — The act or process of refining’ — identifying the essential elements of a collection and removing everything else, each piece a distillation. ‘Refinement — Fineness or elegance of feeling, taste, manners, language…’ — A condensed collection allows for an emphasis on quality, craft and discreet luxury. Raising expectations has an end goal: to create clothing so exceptional and high-functioning that only a compact wardrobe of key pieces will be needed, stripping away the superfluous and eliminating the desire to buy more.

Critically, this deliberate nod to minimalism comes as part of a wider effort to address the over-production and over-consumption that has intensified over the past decade. This new beginning starts with understanding our place in this system and investigating ways in which to navigate the industry responsibly. Restoring a connection between clothing and wearer in opposition to a transitory, hype-driven consumerism becomes vital. Equally, this process of reduction is about leaving space in each collection for thought. Minimalism can be a generative process; it creates space to contemplate, to form ideas and explore possibilities, the absence of the physical creating room for the metaphysical.

Community & Service

A-COLD-WALL* has always been about representation, giving a platform to, not the individual, but the collective, the marginalized voice. This continues on both a local and global level. Thinking turns towards shared ideals, sensibilities and values, a participatory relationship between wearer and brand. This exchange will move A-COLD-WALL* closer to its idealised form, an offering that speaks directly to the wearer’s needs, anticipating requirements in an increasingly unclear world.

The SP-1 exhibition held during London Fashion Week marked a starting point in this discourse. A public display of one single, iconic outerwear model, the M-65, SP-1 explored the limits and diversity of a very specific set of deadstock materials, and allowed A-COLD-WALL* to take apart and examine the M-65’s own technical building blocks. However, more importantly, it began a conversation with members of the public who attended via registration, sharing knowledge and process to effectively reset the conventional understanding of luxury brand/customer relationship. In this way A-COLD-WALL* shifts further towards the notion of communal entity, a radically open and unguarded interchange between wearer and maker begins. The current “Open Source” hardware offering embodies this democratisation of brand, A-COLD-WALL* sharing its intellectual property via snaps, trims and fittings for the customer to apply as they see fit — the possibilities for experimentation and knowledge exchange, endless.

Long-term and legacy thinking have become critical to A-COLD-WALL* strategy. Resisting a moment-to-moment, short-term approach to its work, Autumn/Winter 2020 establishes a starting point for a new way of creating and communicating that will guide and inform every element of the label. A holistic approach aligns output with a strongly held value system, one that is gladly shared with the community.

A-COLD-WALL* will explore the meaning of “brand” in the new age.

A-COLD-WALL*

Written by

Rooted in architecture and industrial design, A-COLD-WALL* seeks to incite a progressive cultural conversation around the possibilities of modern menswear.

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