A good British fashion display is one that touches on Britain’s culture. A-COLD-WALL* AW/18 ascertained the key elements of our capital city and displayed them for all to see. The collection explores the parallels between youth culture (often seen as dynamic and expressive) and working-class culture (often seen as regimented) to present a common narrative about the power of expression through fashion.
Launched in 2015 by London-based designer Samuel Ross, A-COLD-WALL* focuses on the English working class, youth, and the urban environment. These are the voices that are commonly underrepresented in the more vocal elements of society, such as politics and art. When the city landscape looms over you and your 9-5 routine dictates the way that you live your life, it can be easy to confine yourself to those exact boundaries. It becomes self-imposing. Instead of ignoring such cold truths, the collection takes to Britain’s rich architectural history to redefine this working cycle. The Runway Show made us appreciate our cityscape in a renewed way by stripping it back to its bare essentials.
By naming his AW/18 collection ‘National Gallery ROOM-1*’, and in turn referencing towards art’s grand past, Ross is blurring the lines between classes and generations, as well as between different disciplines and industries. The designer found parallels between artwork and construction work: both types of ‘worker’ experience “isolated thinking and interpretation of material, structure and shape” when focusing on their craft, whether that be painting or bricklaying. The links that Ross is making in this collection allow us to connect the different strands of British society into one. Art is intertwined with fashion, our architecture is linked to industrial labour, and although both construction and office work are typically class-defined practices, their respective forms of workwear are not exclusive to their identity.
So what about Ross’ sartorial choices? In a society where classes are divided and in competition, and where social conditions and finances are unevenly distributed, there is no need for much symmetry and balance within garments. Not only do silhouettes clash, but so do their fabrics and materials. Each look is closely affiliated with workwear. On one side of the spectrum, we saw thermo-reactive materials, metallic gilets, industrial belts and sturdy buckles and fastenings. On the other, the collection dabbled with the fisherman’s uniform and the attire of the office worker. And the surroundings: the stage took after the construction site, models paced around girders, and the audio resembled the wails of pneumatic drills.
Ross touches on several facets of British society without saying a single word. This commentary not only stems from the urban-utilitarian wardrobe that the designer has created but too from his conceptual and aesthetic choices for the show. Several pieces may not have belonged conventionally, yet it all managed to work yesterday during the AĆW* Runway.
See the full A-COLD-WALL* Autumn/Winter 2018 collection which showcased at London Fashion Week Men’s below: