LONDON — A-Cold-Wall’s Samuel Ross is a proud polymath and even though it’s his fashion pursuits that have taken off as of late, he is keen to keep exploring his industrial design roots and apply a cross-disciplinary approach to everything he does.
That’s why he took part at this year’s Hublot design prize and came out as winner, for the large-scale sculptures he presented, including an installation featuring an upcycled blanket that could be used in public spaces.
“It’s actually a recognition of my history within industrial design and product design. My degree is in graphic design and I was a product designer for three years before moving into fashion, so this is almost like a full circle. It feels like a coming home for me with complete works that I have been thinking about for a while,” Ross said.
His aim was to present work that could fit into public spaces, whether it was the bright orange benches he named “Beacon One” or “Terminal 1,” which holds an aluminum and polyester fiber blanket, created in partnership with Nike’s Knit Lab, and could act as “a point of refuge” in hiking courses or in public parks, to be used by the homeless.
“It’s a completely upcycled blanket made using recycled plastic bottles. The aluminum fibers within the blanket also help push dirt away from the body, so it’s this idea of having the anti-fungal eco-blanket, which helps the body in moments of need,” the designer added. “I envision it being used in public parks and having the bag reloaded twice a week by local council to really socialize design, encourage interaction within different class systems in the U.K. and have this continuous flow of upcycled materials being justified and used to support a community.”
Ross has been working toward employing sustainable materials throughout his work and is positive that the industry is on the right track when it comes to becoming more responsible: “There is a lot of innovation and there is a lot of movement happening in small studios and small companies, but it’s really about small, medium and large corporations actually making the choice of paying a little bit more money to do the right thing, to put it in simplistic terms. We are seeing a shift and I think that the right conversations are being had to achieve this. Now it’s not just conversations anymore, but also action. For example, Nike has runs its knit lab in London, which is mainly focused on upcycled materials, and Hublot has been completely open to new ideas about interpretation of materials and story telling to empower young designers. So there’s more and more support from the super brands.”
Next to his sculptural work, Ross also placed the famous Vomero sneaker he designed as part of a collaboration between A-Cold-Wall and Nike, as it follows the same design principles of experimenting with new materials and having the object take new forms as it’s being used.
“What’s quite important is the philosophy of the product before its fashion [status]. As you know the UV and PU coating that typically protect a shoe have all been stripped back and removed, so once the shoe is exposed to sunlight, you get this texture and gradient of color that develops throughout the entire shoe and every panel conveys a new color with more wear. It’s this idea of having a living object versus an object that is complete at point of purchase. You must live through the shoe to really see its true capacity,” added Ross, pointing to this left-field design approach as the primary reason for his success.
In addition to winning the Hublot design award, Ross also received the emerging men’s wear designer award last December at the Fashion Awards in London, from his former boss and mentor Virgil Abloh.
“I believe in the power of three, meaning that good things come in three and having like a threefold approach to work. My threefold approach is object, garment and installation; these are my three forms of communication. Call it design, installation art or simply an object, it’s all part of an ecosystem. That’s why the shapes you see can also be found in A-Cold-Wall runways and on garments, so it’s all very unified. The Vomero sneaker really brings everything together, there’s the linear, sculptural shapes paired with this fabric and wearability, which is present throughout all of the work I have produced,” Ross said.