The Studio Visit: A-Cold-Wall*
Meet Samuel Ross, the designer behind A-Cold-Wall* who’s collections are a celebration of British working class and youth culture, merging cutting-edge utilitarian elements with classic Saville Row tailoring. Ross, who worked under Virgil Abloh before establishing A-Cold-Wall* in 2015, has been instrumental in blurring the once clearly defined lines between high fashion and street wear.
Photographer: Jonathan Middleton
Stylist: Emma Hargadon
On why he’s a fashion designer…
I feel like I’ve been operating within the realms of fashion design for about 11 years. I started with retail and commerce, selling fake Nike and adidas to local friends in the neighbourhood from the age of about 15 and that progressed into an actual interest in fashion and design as a whole. I started off in graphic design with a strong interest in product design which lead me to start screen printing t-shirts. Although I became a professional product designer, I still had an infatuation with fashion and garments. This really came to fruition when I started working with Hood by Air and Shayne Oliver. I’d say I’m a fashion designer because it is what I spend my time doing.
Fashion is an industry where there is a macro lens on creativity and it can be used almost as a Morse code to communicate and talk about several issues. Creativity is the bedrock and foundation for its existence and survival. What inspires me to work in fashion, is knowing that there is a working class and under class community that doesn’t necessarily have the correct signal point or translator for a lot of the narratives and stories that are able to be told, and it’s my job to tell those stories in a very articulate and avant-garde way. The community I come from and working class Britain inspire me a lot.
On what excites him about the fashion industry today…
Global fashion seems to have forged a sense of global unity across generations. There seems to be a coherent thread that interweaves between age groups and classes and it’s ahead of cultural differences and can be incredibly holistic. It’s like a common ground that brings people together.
On how his background influenced who he is today…
My father is a painter and a stained-glass window specialist for cathedrals and churches around the world. He actually studied with Damien Hirst just before Damien dropped out of CSM. He’s quite embedded in the art community in London and my mother is a painter as well. Growing up I think I always wanted to be an artist. I used to sell paintings and drawings I did from the age of eight. One of my childhood friends actually sent me a photo the other day of one of the first drawings I sold to him in our after-school club. Coming from a very artistic family meant that from a young age it was clear to me I would follow in their footsteps.
On his designs…
They are a semantic study. Sculptural, not just in the way the patterns are cut but, in terms of the material studying process that goes into producing A-Cold-Wall* garment. A-Cold-Wall* started as an art project, and it still is one, which is why it operates in several mediums. Of course, fashion is the basis. And the name itself came from the idea of melting pot London and the idea of class systems being quite interdimensional in melting pot cities, specifically London, Birmingham, and Manchester. I wanted to talk about the relationship of growing up in these areas where on one road you have the working class street and on the other you have the upper middle class street. We can look at Dalston and Islington and what I wanted to do was talk about this cross-pollination of ideas and viewpoints and our societal similarities and differences which are all juxtaposed when you have a young child in the council estate growing up alongside another child in the marble slab Islington property. That’s what A-Cold-Wall* really is. It’s about both of those tangible physical experiences being surrounded by a materiality, be it pebbled ash or Victorian Brick.
What are you reading right now?
I just finished Homo Deus by Yuval Harari and Mastery by Robert Greene. I read a lot of books on time management and business management and emotional mindfulness because across all the projects I work on there’s probably a team of about 30 people. I like non-fiction mostly. I just read my Land Rover manual book, every single page, on my flight from Russia to Italy!
Your favourite place in the world and why?
I don’t think I have a favourite because the world is just a hologram now, isn’t it? You go to the capitals and it’s the same interior in every single coffee shop. But places of interest would definitely be Ethiopia because you really feel like you’re out of the west and in a completely different culture. A place I’ve never been that I’d love to visit is Mumbai and to explore India.
How do you waste time, when your schedule is clear?
I don’t have free time. I’m always oversubscribed for work. If I don’t have anything to do, I’ll go to the gym or read.
What's your greatest ambition?
My greatest ambition is to become an architect and work on social reform and geographic layout.
Who do you most admire and why?
I admire people whose lives aren’t governed by capitalism or by the chase of money, because I feel like that’s the only real form of freedom left.
What would you most like to change about the world?
I would like to recalibrate the public’s relationship with libraries.
What would you most like to change about yourself?
I’d like to teach myself how to be a little more patient.
Who is someone (living or dead) that you would like to meet?
I’m going to keep it light, I’d like to meet Michaelangelo.
Who’s the coolest person you know and why?
My dad. He quit England and moved to the Caribbean. Although cool doesn’t really exist.
What is the most important thing you learned while working with Virgil?