LONDON — Hublot has tapped A-Cold-Wall designer Samuel Ross as its latest “friend of the brand” — a new collaborative role that will see Ross design everything from watches to in-store installations and sculptures for the storied watchmaker.
“We’re almost forecasting how the future of collaborations will work to a certain degree,” said Ross, who won Hublot’s Design Award last year and was drawn to the 360 approach of the tie-in, which embraced the “plurality” that has defined his design process from the get-go.
“I’m just as passionate about working on fine watches and fine jewelry as I am working on luxury garments or artistic furniture. It really depends on how you see the role of a designer, but for myself, my goal is to bring a form of newness across different categories. It’s more about the partnership and the collaborator versus the field or the discipline I’m working with,” Ross said. “With Hublot there was an immediate synergy in terms of this idea of pairing innovation with luxury design and reinventing what products can really do for you.”
His multifaceted approach was what drew Hublot to him in the first place: “Samuel was chosen for the collaborative approach to his work; combining object design, social design and garment design, and his ability to use them as mediums of connectivity,” said the company’s chief executive officer Ricardo Guadalupe.
The heritage brand has been looking to open up the typically traditional world of luxury watchmaking and create more synergy with the areas of fashion, art, music and design.
In addition to Ross, Yohji Yamamoto was also invited to design two new collections for Hublot this year, as part of the company’s quest to reinvent both its products and the way the brand connects with its customers.
“The biggest issue now is to keep the interest of wearing and buying a watch attractive and alive. Above all, it is important for our industry not to fall asleep on the achievements of the past, but it must reinvent the mechanical watchmaking art. In 2020, [a watch] must become a piece of art, a statement to wear on the wrist,” added Guadalupe, pointing to the increased importance of a strong visual identity, digital connectivity and ongoing innovation, accelerated by the COVID-19 outbreak. It’s why bringing in a renewed perspective, like that of Ross, proved particularly timely.
For his part, the young designer describes this transitionary period as “extremely agile and responsive,” with his label’s growth trajectory continuing to be strong: A-Cold-Wall released its first pre-spring collection earlier this year and saw 125 percent sales growth, as well as a series of sell-out collaborations with Converse, Dr. Martens and eyewear label Retrosuperfuture.
“It’s been an incredibly fruitful time I’d say for the business and for myself, in terms of determining how we can move forward post-COVID-19 and using this as a real opportunity to have such a direct dialogue with the individuals who want to engage with us,” said Ross, who has also been setting up funds to help Black-owned business and those in the front lines of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“The silver lining is that brands and founders have been able to reestablish what their identity is and how they want to convey themselves. During a crisis is when you really see the core of a brand,” he added.
“It’s really positive to see different takes on problem solving. I think that it almost dissolves the amount of risk, if all of these different methodologies are being tested concurrently. I don’t know if anyone has got it right yet, because we’ve only had eight months of this, but it’s still exciting to see new formats in terms of merchandising, quick responses to what consumers actually want and new takes on collaborations.”