Sinister organ music and the barking of a single Rottweiler flooded the Brick Lane show space as slow-strutting models shot nervous glances over their shoulders. The runway was straddled by twin tanks of black water, with dancers crawling and pulling each other out of the murky enclosures. Especially in a time when seafaring migrants are often pursued by government patrols, the show’s conceptual imagery was every bit as eerie and striking as Samuel Ross had envisioned it. Ross, the creative director and founder of A-COLD-WALL*, explained after the show: “The dancers represented suppression, and the dark water represented the depths of fear. In order to move forward, which is intrinsic to humanity, one must ascend through the darkness.”
The “runway installation,” entitled BIRTH.ORGAN.SYNTH, highlighted social themes alongside A-COLD-WALL*’s Fall/Winter 2019 collection. Ross’s signature workwear-sportswear hybrid aesthetic was punctuated by a smattering of graphic design symbols: ruler and protractor markings, graph paper grids and bold prints of the brand’s “Modernist” slogan. The collection also signaled a deeper dive into sophistication, as Ross merged his usual utility elements with tailored suits, coats and jackets. Ross said the FW19 collection was “made with more sophistication and at a slower pace”—this refinement, meant to attract a wider range of fashion consumers, was accentuated by smaller logos and sharper lines. That is not to say, however, that the collection lacked the cutting-edge spirit of Ross’s past work. Inventive cut-outs, plaits and pockets were scattered across technical fabrics and tailored garments alike. The pieces and materials spanned from track pants to trench coats, from memory nylon to welded steel. Just as Ross intended, the collection appealed to a broader swath of fashion consumers while keeping his initial following engaged. Indeed, A-COLD-WALL* proved its maturity without compromising its foundation. Ross, who won the British Fashion Award for Emerging Menswear Talent at the close of 2018, is one of the hottest names in fashion today. With BIRTH.ORGAN.SYNTH, he proved worthy of the hype.
The show was concluded with the dancers finally reaching light—a hopeful ending to an ominous affair. Ross described the closing as the dancers ascending into life. His message is clear: even a society embroiled in conflict and fear can work towards a brighter future.